HSS Research Seminar Series: Dr Sean Lang ‘Jeeves and the British Empire – the Imperial World of PG Wodehouse’

Events — Talk Helmore 201 & Microsoft Teams
13 February 2023, 17:00

This is the fourth talk in our HSS Research Seminar Series. Dr Sean Lang will talk about the intersections of PG Wodehouse's literary worlds and changing British attitudes towards the empire.


The works of PG Wodehouse are normally seen as an escape from the harsh realities of the twentieth century into what Evelyn Waugh described as ‘Mr Wodehouse’s idyllic world’, a world of not-over-bright young men in spats and plus-fours, formidable aunts and loony uncles, capering around an idealised inter-war world of country houses, London clubs and occasional forays along Broadway, all the while under the watchful eye of that paragon of servants, Jeeves. The main exception to the idealised picture is Wodehouse’s experiences as an internee in wartime Germany and the controversy that erupted over his ill-advised broadcasts over German radio, which have been extensively studied and even turned into a television drama. Much less noticed is Wodehouse’s importance as a barometer of changing British attitudes towards Empire. His family background was almost ‘textbook’ Empire material and he remained a lifelong devotee of cricket, the imperial game par excellence. Yet his books also show a keen and scornful eye for imperial posturing and pomposity, and even direct parody of some of imperial literature’s most hallowed hero figures. This paper will show Wodehouse in a trajectory of popular literature, from Sherlock Holmes to the Flashman books, reflecting changing attitudes among the British towards their imperial role.


Sean Lang is Senior Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University, specialising in the history of the British Empire. He is also a professional playwright and a regular broadcaster on radio and television.

Free refreshments will be served from 4.45pm.

Image of PG Wodehouse books
Image of PG Wodehouse books

Event contact: Jeannette Baxter and Melanie Bell: HSSresearch@aru.ac.uk