Professor Margot Finn – RHS Presidential Address 27 November 2020

“Material Turns in British History IV. Erasures: Empire in India, Cancel Cultures and the Country House”


Professor Margot Finn
Friday 27 November 2020

18.00 GMT – Live online via Zoom

Watch the Lecture




Historians today are said to be in the throes of a so-called culture war, in which empire and colonialism are key protagonists.  ‘Cancel cultures’ are conspicuous in the armoury of this cultural conflict.

Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive,’ the Pop Culture Dictionary explains, and is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.’

History as both a scholarly discipline and as a broader institutional and social practice has come under repeated fire from all political sides and generational cohorts in this context.  In this lecture, I pick up a few highly visible threads among the rich tapestry of this contemporary conflict. By locating the social and material history of the British country house within the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism, this lecture aims to situate today’s ‘culture wars’ in both a broader and a longer historical context.