The Official Mind at Fifty

The Official Mind at Fifty: Historians, Policymakers and the Collective Mind of Government, 26 May 2014

Monday 26 May, 10.30am-5.30pm – Clay Room, Nuffield College

Speakers: Professor William Roger Louis, Austin Texas; Dr John Darwin, Nuffield; Gill Bennett, Former FCO Chief Historian; Dr Simon Potter, Bristol; Sir Ivor Roberts, Trinity; Dame Helen Ghosh, National Trust; Professor Thomas Otte, UEA; Professor Martin Thomas, University of Exeter; Dr Jay Sexton, Corpus Christi; Professor Stephen Howe, Bristol; Professor Philip Murphy, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

More than fifty years have passed since the historians Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson (together with Alice Denny) published their seminal study of Africa and the Victorians (1961). Seeking a better understanding of the motivations behind British imperial expansion, Robinson and Gallagher famously focused their analysis around the concept of the Official Mind. It was this ‘collective mind of government’, they argued, shaped by inherited political tradition and centred on the bustling corridors of Westminster and Whitehall, that historians might deploy as their investigative prism for analysing the formulation of policy.

In the half-century since, the Official Mind has remained central to the way in which historians have sought to interpret the processes and dynamics that underpin governmental decision making. This workshop, sets out to bring together historians, policymakers and scholars from other disciplines to discuss the continuing resonance of the Official Mind in the academy and beyond.

Convenors: Professor James Belich, Balliol; Dr John Darwin, Nuffield; Dr Robert Fletcher, University of Exeter; Dr Benjamin Mountford, Corpus Christi

Supported by Nuffield College, Exeter Centre for Imperial and Global History, Oxford Centre for Global History and the University of Oxford Beit Fund