'Fantastic … the most important book on Black British history’ - Akala
Black People in the British Empire is a challenge to the official version of British history. It tells the story of Britain's exploitation and oppression of its subject peoples in its colonies, and in particular the people of Africa, Asia and Australasia
Peter Fryer reveals how the ideology of racism was used as justification for acquiring and expanding the Empire; how the British Industrial Revolution developed out of profits from the slave trade; and how the colonies were deliberately de-industrialised to create a market for British manufacturers.
In describing the frequency and the scale of revolts by subject peoples against slavery and foreign domination - and the brutality used in crushing them - Peter Fryer exposes the true history of colonialism, and restores to Black people their central role in Britain's past.
The British Empire at its height governed more than half the world’s Muslims. It was a political imperative for the Empire to present itself to Muslims as a friend and protector, to take seriously what one scholar called its role as “the greatest Mohamedan power in the world.” Few tasks were more important than engagement with the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Every year, tens of thousands of Muslims set out for Mecca from imperial territories throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, from the Atlantic Ocean to the South China Sea. Men and women representing all economic classes and scores of ethnic and linguistic groups made extraordinary journeys across waterways, deserts, and savannahs, creating huge challenges for officials charged with the administration of these pilgrims. They had to balance the religious obligation to travel against the desire to control the pilgrims’ movements, and they became responsible for the care of those who ran out of money. John Slight traces the Empire’s complex interactions with the Hajj from the 1860s, when an outbreak of cholera led Britain to engage reluctantly in medical regulation of pilgrims, to the Suez Crisis of 1956. The story draws on a varied cast of characters—Richard Burton, Thomas Cook, the Begums of Bhopal, Lawrence of Arabia, and frontline imperial officials, many of them Muslim—and gives voice throughout to the pilgrims themselves.
The British Empire and the Hajj is a crucial resource for understanding how this episode in imperial history was experienced by rulers and ruled alike.
Colonial Strangers revolutionizes modern British literary studies by showing how our interpretations of the postcolonial must confront World War II and the Holocaust. Phyllis Lassner’s analysis reveals how writers such as Muriel Spark, Olivia Manning, Rumer Godden, Phyllis Bottome, Elspeth Huxley, and Zadie Smith insist that World War II is critical to understanding how and why the British Empire had to end.
Drawing on memoirs, fiction, reportage, and film adaptations, Colonial Strangers explores the critical perspectives of writers who correct prevailing stereotypes of British women as agents of imperialism. They also question their own participation in British claims of moral righteousness and British politics of cultural exploitation. These authors take center stage in debates about connections between the racist ideologies of the Third Reich and the British Empire.
Colonial Strangers reveals how the literary responses of key artists represent not only compelling reading, but also a necessary intervention in colonial and postcolonial debates and the canons of modern British fiction.
In this groundbreaking book, Jessica Martell investigates the relationship between industrial food and the emergence of literary modernisms in Britain and Ireland. By the early twentieth century, the industrialization of the British Empire’s food system had rendered many traditional farming operations, and attendant agrarian ways of life, obsolete. Weaving insights from modernist studies, food studies, and ecocriticism, Farm to Form contends that industrial food made nature “modernist,” a term used as literary scholars understand it—stylistically disorienting, unfamiliar, and artificial but also exhilarating, excessive, and above all, new. Martell draws in part upon archives in the United Kingdom but also presents imperial foodways as an extended rehearsal for the current era of industrial food supremacy. She analyzes how pastoral mode, anachronism, fragmentation, and polyvocal narration reflect the power of the literary arts to reckon with—and to resist—the new “modernist ecologies” of the twentieth century.
Deeply informed by Martell’s extensive knowledge of modern British, Irish, American, and World Literatures, this progressive work positions modernism as central to the study of narratives of resistance against social and environmental degradation. Analyzed works include those of Thomas Hardy, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, George Russell, and James Joyce.
In light of climate change, fossil fuel supremacy, nutritional dearth, and other pressing food issues, modernist texts bring to life an era of crisis and anxiety similar to our own. In doing so, Martell summons the past as a way to employ the modernist term of “defamiliarizing” the present so that entrenched perceptions can be challenged. Our current food regime is both new and constantly evolving with the first industrial food trades. Studying earlier cultural responses to them invites us to return to persistent problems with new insights and renewed passion.
From 1895 to the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the promising new science of ecology flourished in the British Empire. Peder Anker asks why ecology expanded so rapidly and how a handful of influential scientists and politicians established a tripartite ecology of nature, knowledge, and society.
Patrons in the northern and southern extremes of the Empire, he argues, urgently needed tools for understanding environmental history as well as human relations to nature and society in order to set policies for the management of natural resources and to effect social control of natives and white settlement. Holists such as Jan Christian Smuts and mechanists such as Arthur George Tansley vied for the right to control and carry out ecological research throughout the British Empire and to lay a foundation of economic and social policy that extended from Spitsbergen to Cape Town.
The enlargement of the field from botany to human ecology required a broader methodological base, and ecologists drew especially on psychology and economy. They incorporated those methodologies and created a new ecological order for environmental, economic, and social management of the Empire.
Radhika Mohanram shows not just how British imperial culture shaped the colonies, but how the imperial rule of colonies shifted—and gave new meanings to—what it meant to be British.
Imperial White looks at literary, social, and cultural texts on the racialization of the British body and investigates British whiteness in the colonies to address such questions as: How was the whiteness in Britishness constructed by the presence of Empire? How was whiteness incorporated into the idea of masculinity? Does heterosexuality have a color? And does domestic race differ from colonial race? In addition to these inquiries on the issues of race, class, and sexuality, Mohanram effectively applies the methods of whiteness studies to British imperial material culture to critically racialize the relationship between the metropole and the peripheral colonies.
Considering whether whiteness, like theory, can travel, Mohanram also provides a new perspective on white diaspora, a phenomenon of the nineteenth century that has been largely absent in diaspora studies, ultimately rereading—and rethinking—British imperial whiteness.
Radhika Mohanram teaches postcolonial cultural studies in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University, Wales. She is the author of Black Body: Women, Colonialism, Space (Minnesota, 1999) and edits the journal Social Semiotics.
“Impeccably researched and seductively readable…tells the story of Sam Sharpe’s revolution manqué, and the subsequent abolition of slavery in Jamaica, in a way that’s acutely relevant to the racial unrest of our own time.” —Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising
The final uprising of enslaved people in Jamaica started as a peaceful labor strike a few days shy of Christmas in 1831. A harsh crackdown by white militias quickly sparked a full-blown revolt, leaving hundreds of plantation houses in smoking ruins. The rebels lost their daring bid for freedom, but their headline-grabbing defiance triggered a decisive turn against slavery.
Island on Fire is a dramatic day-by-day account of these transformative events. A skillful storyteller, Tom Zoellner uses diaries, letters, and colonial records to tell the intimate story of the men and women who rose up and briefly tasted liberty. He brings to life the rebellion’s enigmatic leader, the preacher Samuel Sharpe, and shows how his fiery resistance turned the tide of opinion in London and hastened the end of slavery in the British Empire.
“Zoellner’s vigorous, fast-paced account brings to life a varied gallery of participants…The revolt failed to improve conditions for the enslaved in Jamaica, but it crucially wounded the institution of slavery itself.” —Fergus M. Bordewich, Wall Street Journal
“It’s high time that we had a book like the splendid one Tom Zoellner has written: a highly readable but carefully documented account of the greatest of all British slave rebellions, the miseries that led to it, and the momentous changes it wrought.” —Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains
How the imposition of Crown rule across the British Empire during the Age of Revolution corroded the rights of British subjects and laid the foundations of the modern police state.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the British Empire responded to numerous crises in its colonies, from North America to Jamaica, Bengal to New South Wales. This was the Age of Revolution, and the Crown, through colonial governors, tested an array of coercive peacekeeping methods in a desperate effort to maintain control. In the process these leaders transformed what it meant to be a British subject.
In the decades after the American Revolution, colonial legal regimes were transformed as the king’s representatives ruled new colonies with an increasingly heavy hand. These new autocratic regimes blurred the lines between the rule of law and the rule of the sword. Safeguards of liberty and justice, developed in the wake of the Glorious Revolution, were eroded while exacting obedience and imposing order became the focus of colonial governance. In the process, many constitutional principles of empire were subordinated to a single, overarching rule: where necessary, colonial law could diverge from metropolitan law. Within decades of the American Revolution, Lisa Ford shows, the rights claimed by American rebels became unthinkable in the British Empire. Some colonial subjects fought back but, in the empire, the real winner of the American Revolution was the king.
In tracing the dramatic growth of colonial executive power and the increasing deployment of arbitrary policing and military violence to maintain order, The King’s Peace provides important lessons on the relationship between peacekeeping, sovereignty, and political subjectivity—lessons that illuminate contemporary debates over the imbalance between liberty and security.
International law burst on the scene as a new field in the late nineteenth century. Where did it come from? Rage for Order finds the origins of international law in empires—especially in the British Empire’s sprawling efforts to refashion the imperial constitution and use it to order the world in the early part of that century.
“Rage for Order is a book of exceptional range and insight. Its successes are numerous. At a time when questions of law and legalism are attracting more and more attention from historians of 19th-century Britain and its empire, but still tend to be considered within very specific contexts, its sweep and ambition are particularly welcome…Rage for Order is a book that deserves to have major implications both for international legal history, and for the history of modern imperialism.” —Alex Middleton, Reviews in History
“Rage for Order offers a fresh account of nineteenth-century global order that takes us beyond worn liberal and post-colonial narratives into a new and more adventurous terrain.” —Jens Bartelson, Australian Historical Studies
At its zenith in the early twentieth century, the British Empire ruled nearly one-quarter of the world’s inhabitants. As they worked to exercise power in diverse and distant cultures, British authorities relied to a surprising degree on the science of mind. Ruling Minds explores how psychology opened up new possibilities for governing the empire. From the mental testing of workers and soldiers to the use of psychoanalysis in development plans and counterinsurgency strategy, psychology provided tools for measuring and managing the minds of imperial subjects. But it also led to unintended consequences.
Following researchers, missionaries, and officials to the far corners of the globe, Erik Linstrum examines how they used intelligence tests, laboratory studies, and even dream analysis to chart abilities and emotions. Psychology seemed to offer portable and standardized forms of knowledge that could be applied to people everywhere. Yet it also unsettled basic assumptions of imperial rule. Some experiments undercut the racial hierarchies that propped up British dominance. Others failed to realize the orderly transformation of colonized societies that experts promised and officials hoped for. Challenging our assumptions about scientific knowledge and empire, Linstrum shows that psychology did more to expose the limits of imperial authority than to strengthen it.
Combining insights from imperial studies and transnational book history, this provocative collection opens new vistas on both fields through ten accessible essays, each devoted to a single book. Contributors revisit well-known works associated with the British empire, including Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Thomas Macaulay's History of England, Charles Pearson's National Life and Character, and Robert Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys. They explore anticolonial texts in which authors such as C. L. R. James and Mohandas K. Gandhi chipped away at the foundations of imperial authority, and they introduce books that may be less familiar to students of empire. Taken together, the essays reveal the dynamics of what the editors call an "imperial commons," a lively, empire-wide print culture. They show that neither empire nor book were stable, self-evident constructs. Each helped to legitimize the other.
Contributors. Tony Ballantyne, Elleke Boehmer, Catherine Hall, Isabel Hofmeyr, Aaron Kamugisha, Marilyn Lake, Charlotte Macdonald, Derek Peterson, Mrinalini Sinha, Tridip Suhrud, André du Toit