Commonwealth: internationalism and imperialism, 1919-1939




Wold, Daniel Kenneth

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The dissertation places the British Commonwealth of Nations in the context of international organizations in the 1920s and 1930s. British officials and policymakers developed a Commonwealth ideology that recast the Commonwealth as an international organization with close, informal relations. I argue that this ideology remained at the heart of British approaches to foreign relations. British writers and politicians used Commonwealth ideology as a model for international organizations such as the League of Nations. The dissertation also examines the development of the Commonwealth as an international organization. It shows how the Commonwealth became an organization of sovereign nations, but rarely lived up to the close cooperation described by the ideology. The Commonwealth became controversial as British and Dominion governments differed about its nature. The British government argued that the main link was the Crown, while some Dominion governments viewed it as an international organization held together by economic links and the will to cooperate. The dissertation differs from previous historical accounts by putting the Commonwealth in the context of internationalism. Many scholars have studied the interwar Commonwealth in terms of decolonization. They have measured the amount of independence the Dominions gained from Britain. Scholars of international organizations and globalization have tended to ignore the Commonwealth as an influential international organization. I argue that Commonwealth ideology served as an important British contribution to the development of internationalism in the 1920s and 1930s.



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