- The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain
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For historians of the formerly colonized world, those of Asia and Africa especially, the impact of empire has been central to their scholarly concerns.
In Britain, on the other hand, as Bernard Porter himself points out, this has not necessarily been the case — as witnessed by the fact that study of the empire has been for the most part conducted by a limited number of specialists. It is not without some irony then, that one of the most respected of British Empire historians, Bernard Porter, should turn to the questions raised by Edward Said and colonial studies more generally in order to argue that nineteenth and twentieth century British society was much less affected by empire than in many cases it is assumed to be.
Absent-Minded Imperialists brings together a wide variety of British cultural artifacts, from school land of industry, worker activists, liberated women, and socialist intellectuals. In other words, in his scholarly and literary works Franko created a social and cultural space for a new generation of patriots to inhabit. In the process, he also proved that these modern realities could be described in the Ukrainian language, no longer just a peasant vernacular. Hrytsak argues, in contrast to much of the previous scholarship, that it was the radical political culture identified primarily with Franko rather than the cumulative result of the Ukrainian national movement that caused the final transition from pre-national Ruthenian to a modern, national Ukrainian identity in Galicia P.
Ukrainian research centers in North America would do a great favor to the profession by publishing an English translation of this work.
Along the way, Porter pays close attention to how these different texts, performances, and monuments might have affected their multiple audiences. Porter is also careful to place these various artifacts within a larger context, attempting to understand how reflective they were of print, audio, or visual culture more generally, and to think about the multiple influences that might have had a hand in creating them. The point that I wish to make here is two-pronged: Firstly, it would seem that secrecy is part and parcel of the dramaturgy of political authority borne in the all-too-human and classical dynamic of power, the need-to-know.
The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain
This would have the effect of blunting his argument. Secondly, while it can be accurately be said that there is no imperial mentality that imbues American society, there is no denying that this is not the perception outside the United States. After all, empires, like wars are most often than not invoked in the name of nations. Lastly, one could also argue, in addition to obscurantism that people, and whatever documents their behavior and thought about something can be selective, hence a kind of social or popular denialism especially if there are any reasons for second guessing.
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And, indeed, as Porter himself acknowledges Pp. As earlier noted, with regard to Hall some of these ideas on race and social philanthropy turned out to be self-delusional or disillusioning.
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Further, the manner in which Porter works his sources is wanting. It would seem that in his use of novelists, he is selective. He says that at least one novelist made a healthy living from books that were mostly set on the European continent. I suspect that the reason for this omission is because in this novel the author satirizes the class mobility of English society, which, perhaps, Porter would like his readers to think of as being mutually exclusive.
Hall for example, in the opening chapters shows how imperialism provided an unparalleled avenue and opportunity for those who, like Edward John Eyre, secretly nursed aristocratic ambitions or societal prominence. While the novel is based on a middle-class family, the Sedleys, Joseph Sedley Junior —who is a civil servant working for the East India Company- with his childhood friend George Osborne, are Victorian dandies, who imitate English bourgeoisie concepts of gentility. Thackeray indicts the British middle classes for such aristocratic obsession.
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As such, in a sense in Vanity Fair , there is a fusion rather than opposition between the 19 th century English classes. To harp on racial prejudice a tad longer- in Britons shows how the British nation was forged between , part of which coincides with the Victorian era.
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This she does with reference to the micro-view of the vast majority of citizens whose attitudes, feelings and reactions to empire and imperialism. Britain as a nation, she argues was formed as people pondered on what it meant to be British in the relatively peace Victorian era with reference to imperial ambitions and contact with the other as much as it had done in the tumultuous times of having to face-off with the French.
One of the factors she discusses that led to this identity-formation among others like politicization and radicalization of women, the unity of protestant religious sentiments and milling-around the monarchy and governing classes by the masses is the recruitment of men into the military.
Like in the American case referred to earlier, while the public might be ignorant of the secret designs of those in power, the strong public anti-imperialist sentiment cannot discounted with regard to troop loses in battle. The anti-war sentiments during the Vietnam war is a good case in point although in the British case, such loses were at a bare minimum. But that is not the point- what is important is that Porter recognizes that anti-imperialism in Britain, which counts for empire-awareness, or does it not?
This goes to show the worrying incongruity of British imperial historiography, which while not particularly desired, leads to vexing questions if the reading of the same phenomenon and period yield diametrically and radically opposed visions. When all is said and done, however, Porter is a breath of fresh air.
As other authors have shown, David Gilmour — The Ruling Caste: The Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj, - a small group of British officials not military or missionary did manage somehow to cordon-off empire administering it almost like a family fiefdom for hundreds of years. This particular more so in south Asia where just over a thousand civil servants ruled a population of about three-hundred million people of India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh.
These among others in South Africa, Jamaica, Kenya, Australia -mostly settler British colonies- and in London, were the notorious and nasty little imperial foxes that trampled on vineyards far away from home giving the British a bad name. This highly motivated group of people was successful in creating the impression that British society was imbued by imperialism.
It is noteworthy to note that Porter does not think that thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Carlyle had the kind of readership or influence that Catherine Hall thinks that they had especially with regard to the discourse on race in the great court of public opinion see page For now it is enough to note that the origins of share trading are intertwined with British overseas private interest, which, thanks to Porter, I am no longer free to refer to as formal or informal economic imperialism in India and China.
He makes it sound, annoyingly one might add, that the connection that these authors make lends itself a little too easily to them. In posing this question he even forgets his own loathing of such generalizations of whole nations colonizing other whole nations! It sounds like how he opens the book-that is, by semantically problematizing, imperialism and thus ends the book as he started it. The National Archives has some useful resources of the Victorians , although intended for younger students. There are some interesting visual records of some of the Empire exhibitions.
If you go on YouTube and search for British Empire Exhibitions, there are some archived news reels from the and exhibitions. Governance and administration Opposition Periphery and Britain Impact on international relation.