Magazine article New Internationalist

The Empire's New Clothes – the Myth of the Commonwealth

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Empire's New Clothes – the Myth of the Commonwealth

Article excerpt

The Empire's New Clothes – The Myth of the Commonwealth by Philip Murphy (Hurst, ISBN 9781849049467)

The Commonwealth, what is it good for? It's tempting to answer: absolutely nothing. Surprisingly, Philip Murphy - director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies - seems to agree. The Empire's New Clothes is held together by a quizzical ambivalence about that peculiar institution of former colonies and dominions of the British Empire, which, he believes, risks being turned into a mythology by delusional Brexiteers, who see in its 53 member states the inviting pastures of a post-EU trading bloc.

Most of the book is a historical account of the Commonwealth's development, and it is surprisingly - for what seems like a dry topic - interesting. Its leadership under the charismatic Sonny Ramphal in the 1980s saw clashes with the Thatcher government over apartheid in South Africa and Rhodesia's transition to independence; in this period the organization feels less like an imperial relic and more like a flexible, modern forum for newly independent non-aligned nations. …

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