School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Elliot Newbold

, Faculty of Arts


Research Summary

Current Status

MRes (part-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

At the End of Empire: Frank Murphy, Paul V. McNutt, the United States, and the Decolonization of the Philippines,1933-1947 (working title)

Research Summary

My research maps U.S. attitudes to Philippine independence through a comparative intellectual biography of Frank Murphy and Paul V. McNutt, two U.S. administrators who played critical roles in America's decolonization of the Philippines. It examines the evolution of U.S. approaches to imperialism in relation to three questions: how did U.S. statesman influence independence debates; what socio-cultural factors informed their actions; and what was their impact (contemporaneously and retrospectively) on independence?

Interrogating Murphy and McNutt's impact on U.S.-Philippine relations is important for two reasons. Firstly, their careers in the Philippines were integrative of challenges facing the United States in the lead up to the islands' independence (1933-1947). Events such as the Great Depression and Cold War loomed large in the American mindset as statesmen like Murphy and McNutt legislated for independence. During this period, the two men variously occupied the highest office of U.S. authority in the archipelago (Murphy as governor general and high commissioner, McNutt as high commissioner and ambassador). As conduits for Washington's policy, they exercised day-to-day influence over the independence process. They worked with Filipino elites like Manuel Quezon, Sergio OsmeƱa, and Manuel Roxas, helping to draft legislation that shaped the direction of Philippine development. Secondly, their attitudes on independence exemplify a fascinating evolution in American perceptions of the Philippines. Both men worked to mould a nation cast in the American image. Using intellectual and cultural imperatives as rationale, they sought to develop an independent Philippines representative of America's socio-cultural identity. A critical biography of these figures advances the argument that intellectual and cultural convictions played a formative role in shaping American perceptions of the Philippines.

Numerous scholars have focused on the intellectual and cultural foundations of American intervention in the Philippines (Hoganson, Brewer, Stephanson). Yet, there is a dearth of scholarship contemplating the socio-cultural features of America's decolonization of the islands. Americans wrestled with the notion of administering a colony; ideas of race, religion, empire and exceptionalism collided to provide socio-cultural capital for America's imperial enterprise. Such rationale required as much intellectual reflection as acquiring the archipelago. My project will therefore explore evolving American perceptions of imperialism by examining the attitudes and ideals that guided America's decolonization of the Philippines.

Research Interests

  • US Diplomatic History.
  • Imperial/ Colonial History.
  • History of Decolonization.
  • US-Philippine Relations.
  • Southeast Asian History.
  • US Socio-Cultural History.

Research Supervisors

  • Professor Paul McGarr.
  • Professor Bevan Sewell.

Research Institutes and Clusters

  • British Association for American Studies.
  • Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham.
  • Department of American & Canadian Studies Politics & Foreign Policy Cluster, University of Nottingham.

Primary Funding Source

Midlands 3Cities Masters Studentship, 2016-17.

Research Activities

  • School of Cultures, Languages, and Area Studies funded research trip to the United States to visit Bentley and Lilly libraries (located at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Indiana University, Bloomington respectively), August-September, 2016.
  • Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies funded research trip to Manila, Philippines to undertake archival work in the National Library of the Philippines, Main Library (University of the Philippines, Diliman), and American Historical Collection (Rizal Library, Ateneo de Manila University), October 2016.

Conference Papers

  • Solving the "Philippine Problem": Frank Murphy, the Great Depression, and the Creation of the Philippine Commonwealth, 1933-36. Presented at the 'America in the Asian Century' symposium at the University of Nottingham in March, 2017. Also served as co-organiser. Presented again at the University of Bristol's postgraduate conference, 'Empires and Nations: Beyond the British Case' in April, 2017.
  • The Perfect Place to "Win Friends and Influence People": Paul V. McNutt, the Cold War, and the Fledgling Philippine State, 1945-1947. Presented at the second 'International History and Diplomacy' conference at Liverpool John Moores University in May, 2017.

Professional Activities

  • Winner of 2015/16 Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies MA Tomlinson Dissertation Prize.
  • Winner of 2014/15 University of Hull Departmental Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Dissertation.
  • Contributing author for the School of Politics & International Relations Ballots & Bullets blog.
  • Editor at the Insitute of Asia & Pacific Studies Dialogue blog, 2017 to present.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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