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"The Rivers of Zimbabwe Will Run Red With Blood”: Enoch Powell and the Post-Imperial Nostalgia of the Monday Club
Journal of Southern African Studies (2011)
  • Daniel McNeil, Carleton University
In his influential account of postcolonial melancholia, Paul Gilroy suggests that contemporary reports of violence in Southern Africa reveal Britain’s inability to work through its grim history of imperialism and colonialism. Gilroy’s study links recent discussions of tragic Southern African themes to Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968. However, it does not mention Powell’s critique of Britain’s ‘post-imperial nostalgia’ in a speech about Rhodesia later that year.
Such an omission is not entirely surprising – the Conservative Central Office did not disseminate Powell’s call for Britons to move beyond sentimental attachment to ‘kith and kin’ in Rhodesia, and Rhodesian sympathisers in the Conservative Monday Club attempted to work around Powell’s refusal to support the ‘White Commonwealth’. Moreover, Powell opposed non-white ‘communalism’ whether he was emphasising the importance of the British Empire to English identity or challenging the ‘harmful myth’ of empire as an English nationalist.
However, this paper connects uses three of the main strands of Gilroy's postcolonial melancholia to archival material relating to the Monday Club and the Rhodesian Ministry of Information. The first main strand of postcolonial melancholia involves the belief that racial intermixture will lead to violence and economic instability. The second emphasises the importance of strong white rule to limit racial violence and industrial retardation. The third attempts to contest and then seize the position of victim, alleging one set of standards for the ‘civilised’ West and another set of standards for ‘failed, incompetent and pre-modern states.’ Consequently, the paper sheds new light on Powellite figures on the right who defended (white) minority rule in Rhodesia and/or demonised (non-white) minority cultures in the United Kingdom.
  • Enoch Powell,
  • Postcolonial Melancholia,
  • Post-Imperial Nostalgia,
  • Rhodesia,
  • Zimbabwe,
  • Conservative Politics,
  • British Commonwealth
Publication Date
Citation Information
Daniel McNeil. ""The Rivers of Zimbabwe Will Run Red With Blood”: Enoch Powell and the Post-Imperial Nostalgia of the Monday Club" Journal of Southern African Studies Vol. 37 Iss. 4 (2011)
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