1948: Seventy Years On

This conference will compare global events today with changes that were seen across the world in 1948.

It is a lifespan, ‘three score years and ten’, since 1948. Meanwhile, with events sometimes bizarre, often dire and cumulatively unsettling, 2018 stumbles to a close, marking perhaps the end of the post-war social contract that has framed all of our lives.

A clutch of 70-year anniversaries has been striking: in Britain, nationalisation of the health service, and the arrival of the /Empire Windrush/; globally, the establishment of North Korea, the formal adoption of apartheid by the Nationalist government in South Africa, the independence of Burma (Myanmar) from British colonial rule and the creation of the state of Israel and Nakba (exodus) for Palestinians. Additionally, contemporary news stories reveal the legacies of many events, decisions, laws and policies from 1948, whether in terms of issues still in play (such as Israel/ Palestine), narratives of loss (the NHS and the Welfare State), undermined (a USA led international order) or gaining fresh appeal (the renationalisation of core industries in the UK).

We might ask whether a ‘return’ to 1948 is a process of looking ‘back to the future’? Does a return to when some things seemed to ‘start’ help throw into relief some of the specific and troubling dynamics of the present? Or maybe recalling events and the mood of 2018 – in some ways at least – echoes and/or inverts that of 1948? 

The aim of this day conference is to give attention to 1948 and its legacies, a year (in the UK context at least) that merges into the ‘age of austerity’ or ‘years of the Attlee Labour government’, i.e. 1945-51. It is also to place the two time frames and two very different conjunctures of 1948 and 2018, side by side, in order to be able to look across them.  After all what might be remembered, what seems pertinent about a past time depends in some ways on the specific dynamics, difficulties, fears, hopes and mood of the now. Reflecting on 1948 in 2018 is a different exercise than if the perspective is from a ‘youthful’ and ‘revolutionary’ 1968, or from a strike-ridden, ‘winter of discontent’ in the UK of 1978.

Framed by and speaking to the bigger events of both 1948 and 2018, our speakers have imaginatively interpreted the event’s title. Engaging with the cultural, social and economic, everyday life and the personal, technology and politics, they explore cultural artefacts from film, art, media, the built environment, technology, law, and politics. Case studies relate to the US, the West Indies, Pakistan, Czecho/slovakia, Italy, Britain and Europe more widely.



  • Lucy Bland (Anglia Ruskin University)
  • Charlotte Brunsdon (University of Warwick)
  • Rosalind Brunt (Sheffield Hallam University) 
  • Robert Lumley (University College London)
  • Maureen McNeil (University of Lancaster)
  • From the University of Sussex: Caroline Bassett, Munira Cheema, Katherine Farrimond, Ben Highmore, Kate Lacey, Claire Langhamer, Maria Lauret, Andy Medhurst, Monika Metykova, Alban Webb, Janice Winship


General: £50
Concessions: £25
Free for all Sussex students and staff

If you would like to attend please reserve a place or book a ticket, please click here

For more information please contact Janice Winship at or Sarah Maddox at

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Gardner Center Road
BN1 9RA Brighton