Giving migration debate some historical context

6 Mar 2024
Black and white image of hundreds of immigrants packed onto deck of ship

Few topics generate so much heated debate as migration which is the subject of a public lecture and panel discussion to be hosted by the University of Winchester’s Modern History Research Centre (MHRC).

Migration: Why it Matters will see guest speaker Dr Anna Maguire, Lecturer in Public History at University College London, question the role played by Britain as a sanctuary for refugees particularly during the second half of the 20th century.

Anna, who is currently working on a history of sanctuary for refugees in Britain from 1950 to 2000, argues that Britain was often motivated by political rather than humanitarian aims.

Her talk will open a wider conversation with three leading members of the MHRC who have investigated the subject from different perspectives.

Dr Emily Stiles is Lecturer in Modern History and specialises in the history and representation of forced migration. She is a member of the University’s Forced Migration Network and is collaborating with Winchester City of Sanctuary to create a series of exhibitions on this theme.

Dr Xavier Guégan is Senior Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial History at the University of Winchester. He is an expert in South Asian history under British colonial rule and North African history under the French. He is on the editorial board of Britain and the World, an academic journal which focusses on Britain’s relations with the wider world since the 17th century.

Dr Graciela Iglesias-Rogers is Senior Lecturer in Modern European and Global Hispanic History and leading convenor of the MHRC. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Principal Investigator in the international research network ‘The Hispanic Anglosphere.

Dr Iglesias-Rogers said: "It's time to give some historical context to what is undoubtedly a very divisive matter at present and to do it from different perspectives  ‑ that's why the event will open with an invited speaker, but there will be other three academics in the panel with a view to generate learned debate and to encourage a wider conversation with the public." 

Dr Stiles said: “The tense political climate and divisive rhetoric have given rise to a 'hostile environment' for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants more broadly. Our key speaker is introducing ideas of sanctuary and offering the foundation for a discussion on why migration matters.

 “We are looking to historicise the enduring theme of migration as well as dispute notions of the 'deserving migrant'. Our conversation between international, postcolonial and migration specialists promises to offer plenty of food for thought!”

 The event takes place on Wednesday, 20 March from 4.30pm to 6pm in Room 202 of the St Alphege Building in the University’s King Alfred Quarter.

It is free to attend for MHRC subscribers and £6 for non-members (£3 concessions). Bookings can be made here (including  details for accessing the Teams link). Information on how to become an MHRC subscriber can be found here.

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