Ben Rogaly gave a public lecture organised by the Institute for History of the University of Luxembourg on the 28th of September. Ben along with Mathias Häußler talked about the highly topical and timely issue of ‘Brexit’ from different points of view.

In his talk, Ben explored specific contestations over the local and national space that the British fear to the ‘other’ has given rise to, using oral histories recorded in the small city of Peterborough in England.

In the UK’s recent referendum on EU membership the choice given to the electorate was to ‘remain’ in or ‘leave’ the EU. But the anti-immigrant atmosphere stoked by parts of the leave campaign led some ‘leave’ voters to regard the vote for Brexit as an instruction to all those with foreign nationality (as well as those who ‘looked foreign’) to leave the country.

This may have explained the sharp post-referendum rise in attacks on members of established ethnic minorities and hostile comments directed at EU nationals. This summer’s turn of events did not emerge from nowhere. Paradoxically, as well as being an ethnically diverse society, Britain has a long history of fear of the ‘other’, not unconnected to its colonial history.

In this lecture Ben explored specific contestations over local and national space that this fear has given rise to, using oral histories recorded in the small city of Peterborough in England, a fast-changing place, that has experienced large scale migration over several decades. Building on the geographical concept of scale, and rooted in theories of place and space, Ben argued that geographical insights can offer a fresh understanding of histories of migration and mobility. Such geographically-informed history, properly co-produced through oral history and made public through accessible community events, may in turn help to make connections between people who are divided across ethnic and national identities in a Britain that is currently headed for ‘Brexit’.