BA, MA (York); PhD (London)
Benjamin Bland is Lecturer in Contemporary History. He is primarily a historian of nationalism and racialisation in modern Britain, with a particular interest in how national and racial identities have been constructed and contested (e.g. through popular culture, the media, or policymaking) since the early twentieth century. His work also explores these processes on a global scale, especially through an interest in transnational racisms and anti-racisms. He has broader research interests in the social and cultural legacies of the twentieth century “age of extremes” and (increasingly) in the intersections between his existing research and the histories of capitalism and of the urban environment.
Ben is currently working on his first monograph, provisionally titled The Anti-Fascist Nation? Race, Memory, and Identity in Late Twentieth Century Britain. The book will explore the ways in which fascism and anti-fascism have shaped British understandings of race and national identity since the late 1960s. The project engages with a novel range of historiographies and draws on a diverse source base that incorporates everything from music and film to political pamphlets and Mass Observation reports. Work related to this project has previously been published in Immigrants & Minorities, Patterns of Prejudice, and Radical History Review.
Ben returned to York in 2021, having previously studied for his taught degrees here, initially leaving to undertake AHRC-funded doctoral research at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has previously taught history and/or political theory at various constituent parts of the University of London (King’s College, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway), at the universities of Hertfordshire and Roehampton, and at York’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. In 2020/21 he was also a Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia, working on an AHRC-funded project exploring the history of race relations legislation in Britain.
Ben’s research focuses, above all, on how identities (particularly racial and national) have been socially constructed in modern Britain. He explores these issues using a diverse range of archives and sources, believing strongly in giving due attention to oft-forgotten and ignored historical voices alongside those that have shaped traditional, hegemonic narratives. He is aided in this by adopting interdisciplinary frameworks, borrowing particularly from cultural studies and sociology. He also tries to place as much of his research as possible in a global, transnational context - and to engage with theoretical, as well as historical, questions.
These interests come together in his debut monograph project, on which he is currently working. Provisionally titled The Anti-Fascist Nation? Race, Memory, and Identity in Late Twentieth Century Britain, it explores how fascism - as a cultural signifier and object of popular memory as much as a political ideology - has influenced perceptions of race and national identity in contemporary Britain. The book will, on the one hand, examine how fascism has shaped responses (both critical and defensive) to racism and nationalism in Britain since the late 1960s. On the other, it will highlight the ways in which the spectre of fascism was embedded within British culture, politics and society - influencing everything from the punk movement to anti-apartheid activism. Using a wide variety of case studies and examples, the book will consistently highlight the inconsistencies and exceptionalisms that have been at the heart of commonplace assumptions of Britain as a distinctly “anti-fascist” nation. In so doing, the project also engages with historiographies - such as that on the evolution of Holocaust memory - seldom present in histories of modern Britain.
Ben is also in the process of planning his next major research project. This will analyse the relationship between racialisation and the urban environment (particularly housing) in twentieth century Britain. The project will continue his research into the social construction of racial identities, albeit with an increased focus on the role that the state plays in this process. The project will engage with several recent turns in the historiography of modern Britain (for instance towards new forms of urban history and the history of community) and will also employ a new range of interdisciplinary approaches (drawing, for instance, from geography and political economy).
Between the Empire and Me: Race and Decolonisation in Britain Since 1930 (1st Year Period Topic)
Britain and the World Since 1945 (2nd Year Explorations)
Work & Labour (3rd Year Comparative)
Music, Race, and National Identity in Modern Britain: From the Jazz Age to the Present (MA Option)