Stuart Hall’s cultural legacy: Britain under the microscope

Stuart Hall’s cultural legacy: Britain under the microscope

Stuart Hall, the so-called ‘godfather of multiculturalism’ changed Britain for the better even while he showed us the ugly truth about our racist society

Stuart Hall: 1932-2014

Stuart Hall: 1932-2014

“The very notion of Great Britain’s ‘greatness’ is bound up with empire,” Stuart Hall once wrote. “Euro-scepticism and Little Englander nationalism could hardly survive if people understood whose sugar flowed through English blood and rotted English teeth.”

For the Jamaican-born intellectual, who was one of the Windrush generation, – the first large-scale immigration of West Indians to the capital after world war two – that rottenness was unmissable. Hall came to that rotten land with its in-part slave-generated wealth from Kingston in 1951 as a Rhodes scholar to study at Oxford. “Three months at Oxford persuaded me that it was not my home,” he told the Guardian in 2012. “I’m not English and I never will be. The life I have lived is one of partial displacement. I came to England as a means of escape, and it was a failure.” 

A failure? You might well be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Stuart Hall gave up his PhD on Henry James and instead, in 1958, became the founding editor of the New Left Review, which opened a debate about the things that hadn’t been broached in complacent British academia in the post-war period – immigration, the politics of identity and multicultural society. He became, with EP Thompson, Ralph Miliband and Raymond Williams, a leading figure of Britain’s New Left, and one of the very few among their number who wasn’t white. [Read more]

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