Transnational perspectives on people, places and power

One of two research themes from the Global Transnational History Group.

This theme encompasses several intersecting areas of research exploring people, places, and power from a variety of transnational perspectives. These areas include international non-governmental organisations, cultural exchanges, global crime, diplomacy, and empire.

The research expertise of the theme encompasses a range of areas, including, but not limited to:

  • The British world and empire migration
  • British diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa
  • British communities in the Mediterranean
  • Russian childhood
  • Transnational responses to conflict
  • Humanitarianism and human rights
  • Organised crime control.

Current research projects

‘A Voice for the Voiceless’: Control of organised crime in the US. the UK. and the Caribbean

Project leads: Dr Michael Woodiwiss and Dr Mary Young (College of Business and Law)

One point of view from which to explore people, places, and power is global crime. This project represents the second stage of a collaborative investigation into organised crime control in small island developing states (SIDs). A policy brief was presented to law enforcement officials and policy makers in Kingston, Jamaica in May 2018 (‘Organised Crime Control in Jamaica: A Small Island Country’s Dilemmas’). The recommendations called for a re-focusing of enforcement, away from US direction, which makes drug trafficking the main issue in Jamaica, towards other more important issues, such as firearms trafficking and poor tax revenues.

The current research extends a previous programme of study of Caribbean SIDs which have adopted Western policy constructs and assumptions in the context of organised crime and its control. It includes interview-based work with participants from the UK, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and the Bahamas, drawn from law enforcement agencies, the financial services sectors and government bodies.

The research will produce scholarly articles and policy papers assessing the effectiveness of bilateral organised crime control efforts and will be presented to policy makers and law enforcement agents in the UK and Caribbean.

A world fit for money laundering

Project leads: Dr Michael Woodiwiss and Dr Mary Young (College of Business and Law)

This is the untold history of how prominent civil servants in the UK tailored US-devised anti-money laundering (AML) policies in ways that suited the needs of Britain’s financial services industry.

In the aftermath of these initial compromises in 1987, criminal money managers in both the US and the UK were able to continue to operate in an environment that easily allowed them to hide and use dirty money. The researchers analysed six months of previously unseen personal correspondence and documents exchanged between various actors in the UK Government during 1987. From this, they concluded that the core of the current, global AML regime, was not the destruction of drug money laundering and banking secrecy, nor the ending of criminal financial enablers and with it hot money; rather it was the protection and leverage of national trading interests on both sides of the Atlantic. And the drive to protect these interests would see crime control laws made, amended and changed to cater for the interests of the US and UK banking and finance industries. The file had been classified as secret and held by the UK Treasury until it was released to the public in 2017 as an archive document transferred to The National Archives in accordance with The Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

An article (co-written with legal scholar, Mary Young) was published online by the journal, Trends in Organized Crime in April 2020: A world fit for money laundering: The Atlantic alliance’s undermining of organized crime control.

The first research priority is to examine related documents, continuing to address a gap in the literature about the founding principles of anti-money laundering efforts that were internationalized and institutionalized by the establishment of the Financial Action Task Force in 1989.

The second priority is to track the evolution, development and diffusion of organized crime control training in the UK. The aim is to explore the effectiveness of these training practices in the context of the UK’s response to new and emerging form of international organised crime, including those involving threats to cyber-security.

The British world at war: [Historical sources on empire and war]

Project lead: Dr Kent Fedorowich

This project builds on already established research on people, places and power in diplomacy and empire, especially Anglo-dominion relations. Several associated essays and articles have already appeared or are in press, including a study of Bristolians in the Dominion armies during the First World War (Douglas E. Delaney, Mark Frost and Andrew L. Brown, eds. Manpower and the Armies of the British Empire in Two World Wars (Cornell University Press, June 2021); and the Canadian Forestry Corps in Devon between 1916 and 1919 in Histoire sociale/Social history (November 2020).

An adjunct of this work is the dissemination of valuable collections of primary sources which involve the editing and publishing of two scholarly editions. The first is a wartime diary of a former Australian prime minister, Sir Earle Page, who was a member of the British War Cabinet (1941-1942) to be published in the Royal Historical Society’s Camden series (Cambridge University Press, February 2021); and the private wartime correspondence of Lord Sydney Buxton (Governor-General of South Africa, 1914-20), for the Council of Historical Publications, Southern Africa (2023).

A future related element in developing this specialism related to the British World at War, is based on a comparative analysis of Dominion soldiers’ letters while they were stationed in the UK during the Great War. The focus is on their interaction with the civilian population and their sense of national versus imperial identity.

Sacred space and diplomacy in Turkey

Project lead: Dr John Fisher

The focus of this empirically based project is the way in which selected sacred spaces in Turkey impinged upon British interests there during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The investigation considers the interface of the British Foreign Office, the Church of England, the Turkish authorities, British expatriates, and agencies such as the War Graves Commission and missionary bodies. It brings together diplomatic history and cultural questions, exploring Christian worship and commemoration, where religion and the commemoration of war dead impinged upon Anglo-Turkish relations. It also abuts with recent research into ‘the British World’, including similar work undertaken on sacred space in Morocco.

The period examined begins with the demise of the British controlled Levant Company, in 1825, and ends in the 1970s. The idea of spaces is used flexibly. Chiefly, they comprise churches, where expatriate Britons worshipped, were married, and had their children baptised, as well as the cemeteries where many of them were ultimately buried. These churches and cemeteries were located either in Turkey’s capital city, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), or in Izmir (formerly Smyrna), in the south-west of the country.

The sacred spaces also include cemeteries where British casualties of the Crimean War were interred, as well as cemeteries connected with the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign. The project also looks at the politics of the Phanar, the home of the Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul, nominally the spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

These spaces became contested and sensitive in relations between the British Foreign Office and the Turkish authorities principally, but occasionally other governments as well. These episodes of friction are explored, and in the process illuminate the role of the Church of England (as the Established Church), the role of the expatriate British colonies (as they were often called) in Istanbul/Izmir, and the role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The project will lead to the publication of a volume of essays.

Transnational history of children's rights

Project lead: Dr Elizabeth White

This project focuses on the transnational history of children's rights after World War II, fusing interests in human rights, childhood, and international history, and having synergy with on-going youth culture research within the Regional History Centre. The archives of the United Nations will be a key source base. The aim is to produce substantial innovative publications on the development of children’s rights during the Cold War and the production and dispersal of ideas about childhood from the Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe globally through projects of socialist modernisation.

The project links to participation in discussions about humanitarianism and childhood in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century at the European Social Science Conference in Leiden, and collaborative work with researchers at the University of Leipzig on globalisation and multiple modernities in Central and Eastern Europe.

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