Oral history project sheds new light on the story of the Commonwealth

A new oral history project questions the role of the Commonwealth, asking if it is an obsolete relic and whether it has ever served a useful purpose.
The Commonwealth Oral History Project is the result a three-year programme of research, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It was conducted by  scholars at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SAS), with Dr Sue Onslow acting as lead researcher and interviewer.
Since the project launched in 2013, Dr Onslow has talked to  65 leading players involved in the Commonwealth from 1965 to the present. They include the Commonwealth Secretaries General Sir ‘Sonny’ Ramphal, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and Sir Don McKinnon; former prime ministers from across the Commonwealth; and two former British foreign secretaries, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord (Douglas) Hurd.
The interviews give an overview of  the changing nature of the organisation over the last 50 years. The interviewees are often frank about the Commonwealth’s problems, but also give surprisingly positive insights, as well as candid assessments of its likely survival and future. These Commonwealth Oral Histories are freely available on a dedicated website hosted by SAS. The interviews:
●     Throw new light on the Commonwealth’s attempts to end apartheid in South Africa
●     Give behind-the-scenes accounts of relations with Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe
●     Demonstrate  conflicting assessments of Margaret Thatcher’s policy towards South Africa
●     Provide rare insights into the Queen’s ‘hands-on’ role as Head of the Commonwealth
●     Investigate the extent to which the Commonwealth was an important policy incubator in cancelling the debt of the world’s least developed countries
●     Provide new details about challenging events for the Commonwealth such as Idi Amin’s brutal rule in Uganda, the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the coups in Fiji in 1987, and 2000
●     Chart the troubled history of efforts to reform the Commonwealth
To find out more and listen to the interviews go to: www.commonwealthoralhistories.org/