How Colonial Taxes Contributed to British Welfare – Discussion with Professor Gurminder K. Bhambra on the Impact of the European Colonial Project on Nation and Welfare Building 

The Working Group on Colonialism within Historians Without Borders invites You to an online discussion on Tuesday 13th June 2023 where we discuss the impact of the colonial project on the construction of European welfare with Gurminder K. Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies at the University of Sussex.


How Colonial Taxes Contributed to British Welfare

Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Sussex

Taxation – and its return to citizens through welfare – is one of the main ways in which the ‘imagined community’ of the nation comes into being. That is, the relationship between taxes and welfare is part of the process of constructing institutions and the idea of the nation. If we were to recognise that this ‘imagined community’ was built not only through national taxes, but also colonial ones, then how might that change our understanding of politics in Britain today? While I will focus specifically on the case of the British Empire in this talk, the arguments are pertinent also to issues of welfare across Europe. Specifically, the possibilities of its construction through the use of colonial patrimonies generated through processes of extraction and dispossession organised through the European colonial project.


This afternoon discussion on Tuesday 13th June at 17:00-18:30 Helsinki time (EEST) invites Professor Gurminder K. Bhambra to give a presentation on the influence of extraction and dispossession processes within the colonial project to nation and welfare building in Britain. Our discussion will bring forth a detailed and deep understanding of the structures of colonial heritage in Europe. A presentation of ca 30 minutes will be followed by remarks and questions by the commentator, Docent and PhD Raita Merivirta from Tampere University, Finland. After this, the floor is open for general discussion. The discussion is moderated by Chairman of the Board of Historians without Borders in Finland, Docent Erkki Tuomioja, who is a former Member of Finnish Parliament as well as Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The discussion is held on Tuesday 13th of June at 17:00-18:30 h Helsinki time (EEST) via Microsoft TeamsFor instructions on how to join a Teams meeting, please see Microsoft support pages. The discussion will be recorded and published on Historians without Borders’ Youtube-channel.

The discussion is open to everyone. You are warmly welcome!


Gurminder K Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies at the University of Sussex. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society and is currently President of the British Sociological Association. She is co-author of Colonialism and Modern Social Theory (2021) with John Holmwood and the award-winning Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (2007). She is currently working on a Leverhulme Trust funded project on ‘Varieties of Empire, Varieties of Colonialism’.

Raita Merivirta, PhD, Docent, works as university instructor at Tampere University in Finland. Her publications include Finnish Colonial Encounters: From Anti-Imperialism to Cultural Colonialism and Complicity (Palgrave, 2021), co-edited with Leila Koivunen and Timo Särkkä, and the monograph The Emergency and the Indian English Novel: Memory, Culture and Politics (Routledge, 2019). Merivirta’s main research interests include colonial and postcolonial literature and film and the history of especially Finnish, Nordic and British colonialism.

Erkki Tuomioja, Docent of Contemporary History and the longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, is behind the initiative to establish Historians without Borders in Finland as an NGO. He has acted as Chairman of the Board of HWB Finland since the founding meeting in the summer of 2015. Tuomioja is the author of more than 20 books on history and current affairs.



Historians without Borders is an international network whose goal is to bring together historians across national frontiers and to bridge the gap between academia, policy makers and the general public in order to bring the knowledge of historians to wider use. The purpose of the network is to promote public discussion about history and the use of historical knowledge for peacebuilding and conflict resolution. You are welcome to join our network of nearly 300 members by signing the Historians without Borders declaration!


Heta Hedman
Secretary General
Historians without Borders in Finland
tel: +358406608979