David Olusoga

David Olusoga

Coleridge Lectures 2017: Failed Revolutions and the Lessons of History

Coleridge Lectures/
Thu 25 May 2017

David Olusoga

Coleridge Lectures 2017: Failed Revolutions and the Lessons of History

David Olusoga
Thu 25 May 2017,

1919 was a year of revolutions. Months after the end of the First World War (the cause of much of the unrest), and just over one year on from the Russian revolution, there were revolutions in Egypt, Germany, Bavaria, Hungry, Malta, Mexico, Ireland, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Finland and across colonial Africa. Some revolutions were part of ongoing struggles and national liberation wars of independence; many, inspired by the Russian revolution, were Left-wing – some against colonial powers, others against the Communists in Russia. Britain was not immune, with fears of a Bolshevik uprising from demobbed troops and public protest in Liverpool, London, Luton and Scotland. America feared revolution too, and launched a series of anti-communist activities.

There was also another set of revolutions – violent backlashes against the waves of migration caused by the war. This led to ‘race riots’ across Britain, in which black men were lynched on the streets of British cities, and in the US black people who had migrated from the South to the North were attacked in what became known as the ‘Red Summer’. The revolutions of 1919 failed as the victorious powers successfully repressed the forces unleashed by the war, but often at huge costs to people and nations and arguably the future of Europe (was 1919 the year that gave birth to the Nazis?). Historian David Olusoga explores the year of revolution, asks what worked and what failed, and looks at what long-term lessons history can teach us.

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