The Diplomacy of Decolonisation – Report


Book Talk – The Diplomacy of Decolonisation – Birkbeck College – 15 May 2018

1In May, the Centre welcomed Dr Alanna O’Malley, Assistant Professor of History and International Relations at Leiden University, to discuss her book, The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain and the United Nations during the Congo Crisis 1960-64.

Addressing the role of the UN during the Congo Crisis from 1960 to 1964, Alanna argued this was a pivotal moment in the Cold War. Through examining the divergent positions adopted by the US and Britain in response to the crisis, and the effect of this on relations, she demonstrated how the UN helped to position the crisis as a lightning rod for debates regarding decolonisation.

9781526116260She focused especially on how the UN offered a public platform for African leaders and dispelled the notion of Western unity. Consequently, Alanna argued Afro-Asians used the forum of the UN, and the Congo experience, to challenge Anglo-American imperialism in Africa. In this way, she noted the UN held a central role in managing the process of decolonisation.

Following Alanna’s talk, discussions encompassed a range of issues. In particular, debate focused on the ‘backchannels’ of power located in institutions such as the UN and how scholars of internationalism can try to incorporate these informal meetings and discussions into their work.

A recording of the talk and subsequent discussion is available here.