Journal Article

Richard Jebb, John S. Ewart and the Round Table, 1898–1926

Simon J. Potter

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXII, issue 495, pages 105-132
Published in print February 2007 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online February 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI:
Richard Jebb, John S. Ewart and the Round Table, 1898–1926

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During the early twentieth century the idea of imperial federation was revived by Lionel Curtis, the founder of the Round Table group. However, Curtis did not succeed in generating much support in the settler Dominions (which were central to his schemes) for either an imperial parliament or an imperial cabinet. Curtis's failure has often been interpreted as proof of an inevitable clash between British ‘imperialism’ and the ‘nationalism’ that was emerging in the Dominions at this time. However, it may be better understood as a reflection of the strength of a narrower, ‘patriotic’ determination in the Dominions to protect the autonomy of local state structures. ‘Britannic nationalist’ sentiment in the Dominions (which emphasised the existence of a community of culture encompassing Britain and the Dominions) was meanwhile far from opposed to other forms of closer imperial unity, forms that did not challenge the autonomy of member states. This claim is supported by an analysis of Canadian responses both to Curtis's schemes and to the alternative ideas championed by Richard Jebb, a British writer on imperial relations. Jebb developed a network of alliances with like-minded Britannic nationalists in Canada, and discussed with them how local autonomy could best be reconciled with the need for imperial co-operation. Examining the interaction between Jebb's ideas and those of Canadian thinkers such as Arthur Hawkes, John A. Cooper, J. W. Dafoe, and, most importantly, the Ottawa lawyer and constitutional expert John S. Ewart, helps show the true significance of the failure of Curtis's schemes, and reveals underlying continuities between pre- and post-First World War debates about imperial consultation.

Journal Article.  14259 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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