Swinging Imperialism: Days in the Life of the Commonwealth Office, 1966–1968
No period in metropolitan culture has been as well scrutinised as that of the 1960s in general, with ‘swinging London’ the focus of particular attention. Yet one aspect repays even closer study: the coincidence of two contradictory impulses in politics and public life: decline and exuberance. At the same time as rapid decolonisation and retrenchment led to despair at the fate of a ‘once-great’ country there was a mania—in music, cinema, television, fashion—for the tropes of empire which became central to the dynamic transmission of British cultural forms throughout the world. ‘Swinging Imperialism’ considers: the extemporised management of Britain’s Commonwealth relations; the enduring popular appeal of militarism; the continued referencing of imperialism in a fragmenting UK; the allure for the young in dressing up in the clothing of the past; the peculiarly rich expressions of these matters in music; and the desire for spiritual guidance from Britain’s Indian heritage.