Empire, diplomacy and Jane Austen: cultural previews
This article is from the June 2013 issue of Total Politics
Why did Britain give up its Empire?
Dr Sean Lang lectures on the decline of the British Empire. Examining the reasons behind the Empire’s fall after the Second World War, Lang asks whether the cause of the Empire’s retreating borders was the inevitable march of history, a triumph of terrorism or a graceful change of policy at the top. Lang is senior lecturer in history at Anglia Ruskin University, specialising in the history of the British Empire. His books include Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1939 and Parliamentary Reform 1785-1928.
22 May, London Jewish Cultural Centre
Hidden away in Room 23 at the National Portrait Gallery is a collection of comic caricatures of important diplomatic figures from overseas. On display are five original sketches by the artist Leslie Ward, including the first Chinese minister to Britain, Kuo Sung-t’ao, and the exiled Grand Vizier of Turkey, Midhat Pasha. The portraits were originally drawn for Vanity Fair, whose editor commissioned Ward to depict “the numerous foreign rulers, who have visited our islands from time to time”. Nicknamed ‘Spy’, Ward used covert study to acquire his likenesses. The exhibition also draws on Ward’s memoirs and Vanity Fair’s explanations of the significance of the foreign statesmen depicted.
Until 14 July, National Portrait Gallery
London Literature Festival
For over two weeks, the Southbank Centre will be hosting this literary festival of authors, speakers and poets. Readings by the ten authors nominated for this year’s Man Booker International Prize kick off the festival. Festival highlights include readings by Lionel Shriver, Audrey Niffenegger and James Salter. China Mieville and Rebecca Solnit also discuss their work. Philosopher AC Grayling lectures on humanism, while 40 leading women poets and performers read the whole of Sylvia Plath’s celebrated work Ariel. Celebrated biographer Claire Tomalin also presents five lectures, the first of which is on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
20 May-4 June, the Southbank Centre, London