Rethinking the British Empire and its Legacy Today

13th February 2020

The Brexit Referendum and the changing foreign policy emphasis within the Labour Party has brought long-buried questions about the legacy of the British empire into the heart of our political debate. Big questions are now being asked around the legacy of British imperialism in contemporary conflicts around the world, and whether our education system needs to evolve to reflect the changing nature of our historical understanding.

In an increasingly polarised Britain, these debates about our history take on a special kind of meaning. They touch upon some of the most sensitive issues we as a nation are grappling with today – including immigration, our role in the world, and how we can develop an inclusive patriotism and sense of modern British identity in our diverse society.

The British Foreign Policy Group is delighted to bring together a panel of experts for a nuanced, thoughtful discussion on the vices and virtues of the British Empire. In debating its rise and fall, we will examine what the legacy of colonialism means today, and how we might better address the shadows of our past as we strive to become a ‘truly Global Britain’.


  • Simon Heffer is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, as well as an author and historian. A professorial research fellow at the University of Buckingham, he has published several historical works such as ‘A Short History of Power’ (2010) and a series of three books on the social history of Great Britain from the mid nineteenth century until the end of the First World War ‘High Minds – the Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain’ (2013), ‘The Age of Decadence – Britain 1880 to 1914’ and ‘Staring at God – Britain 1914 to 1919’ (2019).

  • Maya Goodfellow is a writer and political commentator, frequently seen in outlets such as the Guardian, the Independent, and more. She is the author of ‘Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats’ (2019) and a researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she is undertaking a PhD in ‘race, racism and whiteness.’

  • Professor Sally Tomlinson is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Goldsmiths, and an honorary fellow at the University of Oxford. Previously, she was a Trustee of the Africa Educational Trust, spending time working in Somaliland, Kenya and South Africa. She is the co-author of “Rule Britannia: Brexit and the end of Empire” (2019) and “Education and Race from Empire to Brexit (2019.) She has held Professorial Chairs at the Universities of Lancaster and Swansea.

  • Professor Robert Tombs is a British historian of France, and is Professor Emeritus of French history at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of St John’s College. He is currently co-editor of Briefings for Brexit, a consortium of academics and educators who support Brexit. He has authored a number of books, including ‘The English and their History’ (2014.)
  • Dr Shahmima Akhtar is a historian of race, empire and migration. She is currently Past & Present Fellow working with the Royal Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Research on the RHS’s Race, Ethnicity & Equality agenda. Her role involves working with schools and the curriculum, cultural institutions, community groups and other learned societies to improve BME representation in UK History.

Please arrive from 18:00 for a prompt start at 18:30. There will be an opportunity for networking after the event. Wine and non-alcoholic refreshments will be served.

The event will be livestreamed on our Twitter: @TheBFPG. If you have any questions regarding the event, please don’t hesitate to contact

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You can reserve tickets here.

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Matt Gillow

Matt is the Communications & Events Manager at the British Foreign Policy Group.