David Lawton is a PhD researcher at the German Historical Institute in London. His current research examines Euroscepticism in Britain during the 1980s and 1990s. David specialises in the history of modern Britain, having completed an MA at UCL (2019-20) and BA at the University of Oxford (2014-17).
His project looks at the emergence of a constellation of individuals who became increasingly fearful about the future of European integration during the 1980s and 1990s. These individuals worked in broadcasting, print media, the Arts, politics, and as legal professionals. It explores the ways in which they networked together and seeks to understand how they mobilised at critical junctures to protest and prophesise future European integration in their own fields. The 1980s is often depicted as a turning-point decade for the political fortunes of Euroscepticism in Britain, as many on the political Right became increasingly resistant to further integration processes. This project will contribute to understanding this shift beyond the narrow confines of party-political actors.
By connecting cultural, media, and political representations of the European future to the broad network of agents and institutions which helped produce them, this project opens a window onto the relationship between politics, culture, and the institutions through which they are mediated to wider publics, making it an interesting and relevant topic to an audience beyond historians and specialists.
What interests me about this topic?
Studies of Euroscepticism in Britain have tended to compartmentalise ‘politics’, ‘the media’, or ‘culture’ as separate research areas. However, by paying attention to the way in which historical actors traversed across different institutions and impacted different sectors of British society, this project seeks to reveal the wider rhizome of Eurosceptics which grew out of the 1980s, many of whom would go onto be influential during the 2016 Referendum. This project asks how these actors utilised their sectoral expertise and institutional power in order to project an increasingly negative vision of the future of European integration beyond the narrow confines of Westminster in this period.
Next working steps
The next step will be to retrace the emergence of these informal networks of individuals who became increasingly critical about European integration. Currently, I am working in the archives of prominent media institutions such as the BBC and the BFI, alongside the private archives of influential media figures like Lord William Rees-Mogg.