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This pioneering volume addresses the question of how Britain™s empire was lived
through everyday practices “ in church and chapel, by readers at home, as
embodied in sexualities or forms of citizenship, as narrated in histories “ from
the eighteenth century to the present. Leading historians explore the imperial
experience and legacy for those located, physically or imaginatively, ˜at home™,
from the impact of empire on constructions of womanhood, masculinity and
class to its in¬‚uence in shaping literature, sexuality, visual culture, consumption
and history writing. They assess how people thought imperially, not in the sense
of political af¬liations for or against empire, but simply assuming it was there,
part of the given world that had made them who they were. They also show how
empire became a contentious focus of attention at certain moments and in
particular ways. This will be essential reading for scholars and students of
modern Britain and its empire.
catherine hall is Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History
at University College London. Her previous publications include, with Keith
McClelland and Jane Rendall, De¬ning the Victorian Nation: Class, Race, Gender
and the British Reform Act of 1867 (2000) and Civilising Subjects: Metropole and
Colony in the English Imagination, 1830“1867 (2002).
sonya o. rose is Emerita Professor of History, Sociology and Women™s
Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her recent publications
include Which People™s War? National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime
Britain, 1939“1945 (2003), and, as a co-editor with Kathleen Canning, Gender,
Citizenships and Subjectivities (2004).
Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World

edited by
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Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cb2 2ru, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
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© Cambridge University Press 2006

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of
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without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published in print format 2006

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Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Notes on contributors vii
Introduction: being at home with the Empire
Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose 1
At home with history: Macaulay and the History
of England
Catherine Hall 32
A homogeneous society? Britain™s internal ˜others™,
Laura Tabili 53
At home with the Empire: the example of Ireland
Christine Kinealy 77
The condition of women, women™s writing and the
Empire in nineteenth-century Britain
Jane Rendall 101
Sexuality and empire
Philippa Levine 122
Religion and empire at home
Susan Thorne 143
Metropolitan desires and colonial connections: re¬‚ections
on consumption and empire
Joanna de Groot 166
Imagining empire: history, fantasy and literature
Cora Kaplan 191

10 New narratives of imperial politics in the nineteenth century
Antoinette Burton 212
11 Bringing the Empire home: women activists in imperial
Britain, 1790s“1930s
Clare Midgley 230
12 Taking class notes on empire
James Epstein 251
13 Citizenship and empire, 1867“1928
Keith McClelland and Sonya Rose 275

Select bibliography 298
Index 330
Notes on contributors

is Professor of History and Bastian Professor of
Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. The author of several books on gender and
empire, she is most recently the editor of Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions
and the Writing of History (2005). She is currently working on a study
of the Cold War cosmopolitan writer Santha Rama Rau.
is Professor in the Department of History, Vanderbilt
University. He is the author most recently of In Practice: Studies in the
Language and Culture of Popular Politics in Modern Britain. He is
presently working on a study of Britain and Trinidad in the age of
teaches at the University of York. Her main
interests are the intersections of gender, race and empire in cultural
politics and political cultures since 1700, and histories of the Middle
East (especially Iran) and India in the era of modernity and
imperialism. Recent work includes ˜Oriental Feminotopias? Montagu™s
and Montesquieu™s Seraglios Revisited™, Gender and History (2006) and
Religion, Resistance, and Revolution in Iran c. 1870“1980 (2006).
is Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural
History at University College London. She has published widely on
race, gender and empire in the nineteenth century and her most recent
book is Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English
Imagination, 1830“1867. She is currently working on Macaulay and the
writing of history.
is Visiting Professor in the School of English and Drama,
Queen Mary, University of London. Her most recent book is
Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism (2007) and she has published
widely on race and gender in the nineteenth century.
Notes on contributors
is a Professor in the University of Central
Lancashire and teaches modern Irish history. She has published
extensively on the impact of the Great Irish Famine in Ireland,
including This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845“52 and The Irish
Famine: Impact, Ideology and Rebellion. She is currently researching the
impact of the 1848 nationalist uprising in Ireland.
is author, most recently, of Prostitution, Race, and
Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire, and editor of
Gender and Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire Companion
Series. She teaches history at the University of Southern California.
is a former editor of Gender and History and
author with Catherine Hall and Jane Rendall of De¬ning the Victorian
Nation. He is currently working on British socialism and empire since
the late nineteenth century.
is Research Professor in history at Shef¬eld Hallam
University and is the author of Women Against Slavery and editor of
Gender and Imperialism. Her work focuses on exploring the
intersections between British women™s history and the history of
British imperialism, and she is currently completing a new monograph
entitled ˜Feminism, Philanthropy and Empire™.
is an Honorary Fellow in the History Department at the
University of York. Her publications include The Origins of Modern
Feminism, with Catherine Hall and Keith McClelland De¬ning the
Victorian Nation and, most recently, edited with Mark Hallett,
Eighteenth-Century York: Culture, Space and Society. She has published
many articles on women™s and gender history and is currently working
on a study of the gendered legacies of the Enlightenment in Scotland.
is the author of Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in
Nineteenth-Century England and Which People™s War? National Identity
and Citizenship in Wartime Britain, 1939“1945. Most recently she has
been interested in questions of citizenship, masculinity and empire,
especially during and in the aftermath of war in twentieth-century
is Associate Professor of Modern European History at the
University of Arizona, and author of ˜We Ask for British Justice™:
Workers and Racial Difference in Late Imperial Britain, as well as articles
Notes on contributors ix
on migration, interracial marriage and the racialisation of masculinity.
Her book in progress enquires into the cultural impact of long-distance
migration on the Tyne port of South Shields between 1841 and 1939.
teaches modern British history and the history of
European colonialism in the Department of History at Duke
University in Durham, North Carolina. She is the author of
Congregational Missions and the Making of an Imperial Culture in
Nineteenth-Century England. Her current research explores the social
and ethnic boundaries of competing conceptions of the family as
re¬‚ected in the social history and cultural construction of homeless
children in Britain and the Empire during the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries.
c h a p t e r on e

Introduction: being at home with the Empire
Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose

What was the impact of the British Empire on the metropole between the
late eighteenth century and the present?1 This is the question addressed in
a variety of ways and across different timescales in this volume. Such a
question has a history that perhaps needs remembering: for it is both a
repetition and a recon¬guration of a long preoccupation with the inter-
connections between the metropolitan and the imperial. Was it possible
to be ˜at home™ with an empire and with the effects of imperial power or
was there something dangerous and damaging about such an entangle-
ment? Did empires enrich but also corrupt? Were the expenses they
brought worth the burdens and responsibilities? These questions were the
subject of debate at least from the mid-eighteenth century and have been
formulated and answered variously according both to the historical
moment and the political predilections of those involved.
The connections between British state formation and empire building
stretch back a long way, certainly into the pre-modern period.2 It was the
shift from an empire of commerce and the seas to an empire of conquest,
however, that brought the political and economic effects of empire home
in new ways. While the American War of Independence raised one set of
issues about native sons making claims for autonomy, conquests in Asia
raised others about the costs of territorial expansion, economic, political
and moral.3 From the 1770s questions about the effects of empire on the
metropole were never entirely off the political agenda, whether in terms
of the worries about the impact of forms of Oriental despotism or the
practice of slavery abroad on the liberties of Englishmen at home, debates
as to the status of British subjects and British law across the empire, or

Thanks to the contributors to this book for comments on this piece and to Bill Schwarz.
For a discussion of some of the relevant material see David Armitage, ˜Greater Britain: A Useful
Category of Historical Analysis?™ American Historical Review, 104 (2) (1999), 427“55. See also his
The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge, 2000).
See, for example, Eliga Gould, The Persistence of Empire: British Political Culture in the Age of the
American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 2000); P. J. Marshall, ˜Empire and Authority in the Later
Eighteenth Century™, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 15 (2) (1987), 105“22.

hopes for a ˜Greater Britain™ that could spread across the world.4 During
the period that we cover in this book there were moments of profound
controversy about the empire “ about what form it should take, and what
should be its purpose. How Britain™s imperial stance was envisaged was
always contested and changed over time. But there were few if any voices
arguing the Empire should be disbanded, and that Great Britain should
no longer remain an imperial nation. Important issues were seen as at
stake in the metropolitan/colonial relation and both supporters and critics
of empire recognised that Britain™s imperial power could have con-
sequences for her native population, never mind the effects on popula-
tions farther a¬eld.
The chapters in this book are not solely concerned, however, with the
political or ideological debates over empire, critical as these were. Rather,
we argue that empire was, in important ways, taken-for-granted as a
natural aspect of Britain™s place in the world and its history. No one
doubted that Great Britain was an imperial nation state, part of an
empire. J. R. Seeley famously argued that the British ˜seemed to have
conquered and peopled half the world in a ¬t of absence of mind™.5 In
commenting on this Roger Louis notes that ˜he was drawing attention to
the unconscious acceptance by the English public of the burdens of
Empire, particularly in India™.6 It is this ˜unconscious acceptance™, whe-
ther of the burdens or bene¬ts of empire, that we are in part exploring in
this volume. The Empire™s in¬‚uence on the metropole was undoubtedly
uneven. There were times when it was simply there, not a subject of
popular critical consciousness. At other times it was highly visible, and
there was widespread awareness of matters imperial on the part of the
public as well as those who were charged with governing it. The majority
of Britons most of the time were probably neither ˜gung-ho™ nor avid
anti-imperialists, yet their everyday lives were infused with an imperial
presence. Furthermore, important political and cultural processes and
institutions were shaped by and within the context of empire. Our
question, therefore, is not whether empire had an impact at home, fatal

See, for example, on Hastings, Nicholas Dirks, The Scandal of Empire (Cambridge, MA, 2006); on
slavery, David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770“1823 (Ithaca, 1975);
on Morant Bay, Bernard Semmel, The Governor Eyre Controversy (London, 1962); on the tradition
of radical critics of imperialism, Miles Taylor, ˜Imperium et Libertas? Rethinking the Radical
Critique of Imperialism during the Nineteenth Century™, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth
History, 19 (1) (1991), 1“23.
J. R. Seeley, The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures (London, 1883), 10.
Wm. Roger Louis, ˜Introduction™, in Robin W. Winks (ed.), The Oxford History of the British
Empire, vol. V: Historiography (Oxford, 1999), 9.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 3
or not.7 Rather, we ask how was empire lived across everyday practices “
in church and chapel, by readers at home, as embodied in sexualities or
forms of citizenship, as narrated in histories? To what extent did people
think imperially, not in the sense of political af¬liations for or against
empire, but simply assuming it was there, part of the given world that had
made them who they were?
This question is possible precisely because we are no longer ˜at home™
with an empire. It is both the same and different from the questions which
preoccupied both supporters and critics of empire prior to decolonisation.
It is a recon¬guration “ a new way of seeing associated with a different
historical moment. Empire was always there between the eighteenth cen-
tury and the 1940s, albeit in different forms with varied imperatives
according to the particular conjuncture, different questions provoking
debate about the metropolitan/colonial relation. But the questions were all
thought within an imperial paradigm. After decolonisation that frame had
gone and the end of empire has brought with it new concerns and pre-
occupations. In the 1940s and 1950s the Empire was decomposing, despite
attempts by Churchill and others to hold on. Capturing public imagination
at the time were the sectarian and inter-tribal con¬‚icts taking place as
independence was granted to former dependencies. Decolonisation was
¬gured by the government and in much of the press as relatively con¬‚ict-
free. Unlike the French who were ¬ghting an all-out war to keep Algeria
French, the British public generally understood that Britain was making a
graceful exit, defending the Commonwealth and keeping the interests of
colonised peoples at the forefront of their policies. Yet we now know and to
a certain extent it was known then but not always consciously registered,
that the leave-taking from Malaya and Kenya was anything but peaceful. In
the case of Kenya, as has recently been demonstrated, the Mau Mau
rebellion was portrayed in the press as an outbreak of utter savagery on the
part of the Kikuyu in the name of nationalism gone wild. It was repressed
with horri¬c brutality by the Colonial administration with the full
knowledge and complicity of the British government.8 Those suspected of
active participation with Mau Mau were tried and hanged at the very same
time that Parliament was debating the abolition of capital punishment by
hanging in the metropole.9 Many thousands more, including women and

The reference is to P. J. Marshall, ˜No Fatal Impact? The Elusive History of Imperial Britain™,
Times Literary Supplement, 12 March 1993, 8“10.
Caroline Elkins, Britain™s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya (London, 2005).
David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (New
York, 2005), 7.
children, were herded into detention camps where they suffered starvation,
disease and death. Caroline Elkins has illuminated this terrible story,
indicating that the facts about these camps were debated in parliament and
received some coverage in the press. Yet, there was no public outcry. The
reason for this, she argues, was that Mau Mau had been portrayed in the
press and by the government as African savagery at its most primitive and
violent.10 Some Afro-Caribbean migrants, arriving in England during this
period, discovered that they were perceived through a Kenyan lens: ˜Are
you a Mau Mau lady?™ Beryl Gilroy was asked.11
The Empire had gone and was best forgotten. The West Indians and
South Asians who were arriving were thought of as postwar migrants
rather than imperial subjects with a long history connecting them to
Britain. In the aftermath of the Second World War it was the great
struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union that dominated
global politics. Britain, no longer an imperial power, was drawn into the
Cold War, a loyal supporter and friend of the USA, part of the West now
united against communism. Modernisation would solve the problems of
underdevelopment now that colonies were a thing of the past. It was not
until the 1980s that questions about ˜after empire™ became high on the
political agenda. This was associated with both the emergence of new
forms of globalisation and, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the
now substantial second-generation communities of black Britons in the
inner cities making claims for equality and recognition. At the same time
acknowledgement of the failure of new nations established after decolo-
nisation brought with it a critique both of the limits of nationalism, and
the recognition that while the political forms of empire had been dis-
mantled, neo-colonialism and colonial ways of thinking were alive and
well. This was the recon¬guration that made possible the emergence of
a postcolonial critique from the 1980s “ lifting the veil of amnesia about
empires and making it imperative to recognise the persistence of their
legacies. As Derek Gregory has put it, postcolonialism™s critique disrupted
the ˜unilinear and progressive trajectory of episodic histories that dispatch
the past to the archive rather than the repertoire™.12 The collapse of the
Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War meant that the United States
now emerged as the superpower and questions of empire began to arise
anew, alongside recon¬gured languages of civilisation and barbarism. The
Elkins, Britain™s Gulag, 307“9.
Beryl Gilroy, Black Teacher (London, 1976), 121, cited in Wendy Webster, Englishness and Empire,
1939“1965 (Oxford, 2005), 123.
Derek Gregory, The Colonial Present (Oxford, 2004), 265.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 5
dam that had earlier been erected against the memory of the British
Empire broke down and in recent years books, television and radio
programmes have poured out exploring that legacy in innumerable dif-
ferent ways. In this moment after one kind of empire (the British), and
contemplating another (that of the United States), it has become not only
possible but necessary to rethink the imperial relation in the light of the
present, no longer inside but outside an imperial although postcolonial
We are all too well aware of the dangers of focusing yet again on the
British, to the neglect of the lives of colonial peoples across the Empire.
Yet our object here is the metropole and the ways in which it was con-
stituted in part by the Empire. Thus our focus in this book is on the
period when the Empire existed and was a presence in metropolitan life:
not on the equally important topic of the effects of empire after deco-
lonisation. It is British history which is our object of study. Imperial
historians have always thought in a variety of ways about the metropole,
the seat of government and power, but British historians, those concerned
with the national and the domestic, have seriously neglected the place of
empire on that history. British history, we are convinced, has to be
transnational, recognising the ways in which our history has been one of
connections across the globe, albeit in the context of unequal relations of
power. Historians of Britain need to open up national history and
imperial history, challenging that binary and critically scrutinising the
ways in which it has functioned as a way of normalising power relations
and erasing our dependence on and exploitation of others. In exploring
the ways in which the British were ˜at home™ with their empire, we aim to
destabilise those relations and explore the dangerous parameters of white
British culture.

a note on terminology
It is important that we de¬ne the terms that we are using here. This is no
easy task for as any number of scholars have suggested, the central terms
of ˜empire™ and ˜imperialism™, ˜colony™ and ˜colonialism™, ˜race and
racism™ are slippery, contested, and their historical referents have changed
over time. This is not the place to review and assess all of the different
uses of these terms on offer. Instead, we will draw upon the work of other
scholars in clarifying what we mean when we use these terms.
Empire is a large, diverse, geographically dispersed and expansionist
political entity. A central feature of this unit is that it ˜reproduces
differentiation and inequality among people it incorporates™.13 Thus, at its
heart, empire is about power, and is ˜usually created by conquest, and
divided between a dominant centre and subordinate, sometimes far dis-
tant peripheries™.14 In challenging the traditional focus on the centre/
periphery relation scholars have recently emphasised the importance of
connections across empires, the webs and networks operated between
colonies, and the signi¬cance of centres of power outside the metropole,
such as Calcutta or Melbourne. Thus, ˜webs of trade, knowledge,
migration, military power and political intervention that allowed certain
communities to assert their in¬‚uence . . . over other groups™ are con-
stitutive of empires.15 Empires also may be considered as ˜networks™
through which, in different sites within them, ˜colonial discourses were
made and remade rather than simply transferred or imposed™.16
Imperialism, then, is the process of empire building. It is a project that
originates in the metropolis and leads to domination and control over the
peoples and lands of the periphery.17 Ania Loomba helpfully suggests
that colonialism is ˜what happens in the colonies as a consequence of
imperial domination™. Thus, she suggests that ˜the imperial country is the
˜˜metropole™™ from which power ¬‚ows, and the colony . . . is the place
which it penetrates and controls™.18 One might add that the penetration
often has been extremely uneven and that resistance on the part of the
colonised has been central to that unevenness. As Guha has aptly put it,
˜(I)nsurgency was . . . the necessary antithesis of colonialism.™19
As Robinson and Gallagher argued long ago, imperialism can function
without formal colonies, but the possession of colonies is essential to what
is termed colonialism.20 Colonies, themselves, differ enormously even
within a particular empire such as the British Empire. The process of
colonisation involves the takeover of a particular territory, appropriation
of its resources and, in the case of the British Empire, the migration of
people from the metropole outward to administer or to inhabit the

Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley, 2005), 26.
Stephen Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2002), 30.
Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Basingstoke, 2002); see
also Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, ˜Introduction™, in Ballantyne and Burton (eds.),
Bodies, Empires and World History (Durham, NC, 2005), 3.
Alan Lester, Imperial Networks: Creating Identities in Nineteenth-century South Africa and Britain
(London, 2001), 4.
17 18
Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism, 2nd edn (London, 2005), 12. Ibid.
Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (Delhi, 1983), 2.
Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher, ˜The Imperialism of Free Trade™, Economic History Review,
2nd ser., 6 (1) (1953), 1“15.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 7
colony as settlers. Regardless, colonisation involves various forms of
dispossession of those who lived on the lands prior to their being colo-
nised.21 As Loomba has put it, colonisation meant ˜un-forming or
re-forming the communities that existed there already™, often violently,
and that would be the case whether or not people from the metropole
went there to form their own permanent communities. Furthermore,
colonial empires such as the British Empire were not omnipotent. They
had to administer and assert control under constraints ˜intrinsic to the
vastness and diversity of imperial spaces™ that inevitably aroused discontent
among those who were subordinated in the process. At the same time
imperial authority attempted to insist upon the idea that the Empire
was a ˜legitimate polity in which all members had a stake™.22 One mode
of exerting imperial power depended upon negotiating with existing
colonial wielders of power, whether Indian rajahs, African ˜chiefs™, or
mercantile or cultural elites, thus aligning the Empire with pre-existing
social and cultural hierarchies. But this strategy coexisted both with
attempts to offer all subjects of empire a form of belonging and with the
persistent deployment of racial distinctions as a way of underscoring
their superiority.23
Although as James Donald and Ali Rattansi argue, people continue
even today to act as if race was a ¬xed, objective category, most scholars
recognise that not only is race not an essential, ˜natural™ category, but
that the meanings and valence of race have changed historically.24 Both
during the heyday of the British Empire and its aftermath, race, in its
many guises, ˜naturalises difference™ and reinscribes the always unstable
distinction between coloniser and colonised. As a number of scholars
have demonstrated, ideas about colonial difference became increasingly
in¬‚uential as they ˜intersected with, and helped to reformulate, British
domestic discourses of class, ethnic and gender difference™.25 Further-
more, the process by which the meanings of race became the focus and

Howe, Empire, 31. 22 Cooper, Colonialism, 28. 23
James Donald and Ali Rattansi (eds.), ˜Race™, Culture and Difference (London, 1992), 1“4.
Alan Lester, ˜Constructing Colonial Discourse™, in Alison Blunt and Cheryl McEwan (eds.),
Postcolonial Geographies (London, 2002), 38. See also Ann L. Stoler, Race and the Education of
Desire: Foucault™s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, NC, 1995), 104;
Leonore Davidoff, ˜Class and Gender in Victorian England™, in Judith L. Newton, Mary P. Ryan
and Judith R. Walkowitz (eds.), Sex and Class in Women™s History (London, 1983), 17“71; Joanna de
Groot, ˜˜˜Sex™™ and ˜˜Race™™: The Construction of Language and Image in the Nineteenth Century™,
in Catherine Hall (ed.), Cultures of Empire: Colonizers in Britain and the Empire in the Nineteenth
and Twentieth Centuries (Manchester, 2000), 37“60.
product of scienti¬c inquiry was intimately bound up with empire.26 And
although there was contestation about the ¬xity of racial distinctions over
the course of the period covered by this book, the grounding of difference
in ˜scienti¬c™ authority and the creation of ˜the natural™ was a political
process involving both colony and metropole.27 Historically, racism and
the ˜scienti¬c™ authority behind the notion of immutable, biologically
based difference were co-constitutive. The idea of race, like that of
essential differences between women and men, was to become so wide-
spread as to be part of the ˜taken-for-granted™ world in which the people
of the metropole lived their lives. As G. R. Searle has put it, ˜the super-
iority of ˜˜whites™™ over ˜˜blacks™™ was widely treated as self-evident™.28 This,
however, does not mean that everyone was a racist just as everyone was
not an imperialist. In Britain open con¬‚ict between people of different
˜racial™ or ˜ethnic™ origins was anything but constant, and, as Laura
Tabili™s essay in this volume suggests, racial violence and antagonism may
well have been the product of particular moments of economic and
imperial crises. She argues that outside of these particular conjunctures
people of different ethnicities could and did live relatively harmoniously.
Yet when con¬‚ict did erupt Britons adopted and adapted ˜commonsen-
sical™ or ˜taken-for-granted™ views of ˜natural™ difference that had been and
continued to be present in metropolitan culture.

The end of the European empires, the construction of new nation states
and the major changes that took place in the world in the 1970s and 1980s
resulted in shifts in patterns of historical writing, both in Britain and
elsewhere. Here we are concerned with those effects in the writing of
British history. Once Britain was no longer the centre of an empire and a
great power, long-established assumptions about the writing of national
history began to dissolve. A binary divide between nation and empire had
been central to the nationalist historiography that emerged in mid-
nineteenth-century Britain and survived for much of the twentieth. It was
challenged by Seeley in the 1880s when he made the case for England™s
past, present and future being intimately associated with that of its

Catherine Hall, ˜Introduction: Thinking the Postcolonial, Thinking the Empire™, in Hall (ed.),
Cultures, 19.
Nancy Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain, 1800“1960 (London, 1982); also see her

˜Race, Gender, Science and Citizenship™, in Hall (ed.), Cultures, 61“86.
G. R. Searle, A New England? Peace and War, 1886“1918 (Oxford, 2004), 32.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 9
empire.29 His intervention, however, far from producing a more con-
nected history, was signi¬cant in the development of imperial history as a
separate subject. ˜The disjuncture between national and extra-national
histories has been particularly abrupt within the history of Britain™, as
David Armitage has argued.30 English exceptionalism has indeed been
dif¬cult to dismantle built as it was on wilful amnesia, as Catherine Hall
suggests in her essay on Macaulay in this volume. In the last twenty-plus
years, however, efforts to reconnect the histories of Britain and empire
and to challenge both the myopia of nationalist histories, and those forms
of imperial history that do not engage with the metropole, have come
from a variety of different sources and perspectives. Some are critical of
the whole project of empire, others more revisionist in their focus, while
some defend the imperial legacy.31 The various contributors to the debate
over national history and its relation to the imperial have engaged with
the different literatures to different degrees. What is clear is that this is
a most productive area of historical research and one with which many of
the protagonists feel passionately, albeit with very different investments
and positions.
The 1960s and 70s saw a ¬‚owering of social history in Britain, but that
work was for the most part resolutely domestic in its focus. By the 1980s
increasingly sharp debates over questions of race and difference, riots in
Britain™s inner cities, and the Falklands War put issues of empire ¬rmly
back on the historical agenda. Racism, as Salman Rushdie argued at the
time, was exposing Britain™s postcolonial crisis.32 In this context some
British historians who had been focused on the nation began to think
more about empires. Work by anthropologists, themselves engaged in
critical re¬‚ection on their discipline and its origins in colonial knowledge,
provided important insights. Their refusal of the established lines of
division between history and anthropology, one dealing with ˜modern™
peoples, the other with ˜primitive™ peoples, understood as without a
history, destabilised conventional understandings. In 1982 Sidney Mintz
and Eric Wolf, both in¬‚uenced by Marxism, published classic texts which

Seeley, The Expansion of England.
Armitage, ˜A Greater Britain™, 428; Peter Mandler, History and National Life (London, 2002).
Obviously there have been crucial international in¬‚uences “ especially postcolonial theory and
Subaltern Studies. But here we are con¬ning our attention to the efforts by historians to reconnect
the domestic and the imperial. We are also not discussing all the ideas that have come from
historical geographers, those working in literary and visual culture etc., as this would have been a
major essay in its own right.
Salman Rushdie, ˜The New Empire within Britain™, in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism
1981“1991 (London, 1991).
insisted on the importance of grasping the connections between peoples
in different parts of the globe, the power relations between them, and the
circuits of production, distribution and consumption within which they
lived.33 Mintz traced the history of sugar, from luxury to everyday
commodity, in the process exploring the plantation as one of the for-
mative sites of modern capitalist production. Sugar, he argued, was one of
the ¬rst commodities to de¬ne modern English identities.34 Wolf argued
that it was no longer enough to write the history of the dominant or the
subjugated. The world of humankind was a totality: it was the specialised
social sciences which had insisted on separating out the parts. He aimed
to ˜delineate the general processes at work in mercantile and capitalist
development, while at the same time following their effects on the micro-
populations studied by the ethnohistorians and anthropologists™. In his
account, ˜both the people who claim history as their own and the people
to whom history has been denied emerge as participants in the same
historical trajectory™.35
Another anthropologist, Bernard Cohn, again someone who was pre-
occupied with the relationship between history and anthropology, has
been a key ¬gure in reshaping imperial history, bringing it into the same
¬eld as the history of early modern and modern South Asia.36 One of his
central preoccupations has been with the development of classi¬catory
systems and the ways in which India was utilised as a laboratory for new
technologies of rule. Long before the publication of Said™s Orientalism,
as Dipesh Chakrabarty has noted, Cohn ˜was teaching his students in
Chicago some of the fundamentals of the relation between knowledge
and power™ that shaped colonialism in South Asia and beyond.37 His
work, along with that of Thomas Metcalf, who has emphasised the play
of similarity and difference as central to British conceptions of India, has
signi¬cantly shifted understandings of the Raj.38 Since the East India
Company was London based, its shareholders, proprietors and Directors

Mintz and Wolf were both drawing on the radical-Marxist critique of empire, which also informed
work going on in Britain. See, for example, Michael Barratt Brown, After Imperialism (London,
1963); V. G. Kiernan, The Lords of Human Kind: European Attitudes to the Outside World in the
Imperial Age (London, 1969).
Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York, 1985). David
Scott, ˜Modernity that Predated the Modern: Sidney Mintz™s Caribbean™, History Workshop
Journal, 58 (2004), 191“210.
Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (London, 1982), 23.
Bernard S. Cohn, An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays (Oxford, 1990);
Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton, 1996).
Dipesh Chakrabarty, ˜Foreword™, in The Bernard Cohn Omnibus (Oxford, 2004), x“xi.
Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, 1994).
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 11
interested in enjoying an income at home, the history of the Company
has required a direct engagement with domestic issues. This work has
informed a new generation of British historians trying to understand the
connected histories of Britain and its empire. Some, while challenging the
metropolitan/colonial divide, have remained inside an imperial paradigm,
assuming that empire is ˜a legitimate political and economic form™.39
P. J. Marshall, one of the most in¬‚uential of British scholars of India, has
insisted on seeing the connections between Britain and India while pla-
cing both in a larger imperial frame.40 At the same time he has down-
played the centrality of colonial ideology to the emergence and expansion
of a territorial empire, in part because of his interest in private trade and
in the signi¬cance of Bengali merchant groups and cultural brokers.41
Following this trajectory Philip Lawson, for example, both in his history
of the East India Company and his later work, brought together India
and Britain. He argued that the Company was inextricably bound up
with the development of a ¬scal-military state in the eighteenth century
and that ˜the most striking and rewarding aspect of studying the East
India Company™s experience is that it confounds nationalist histories of
one sort or another™.42
From a different but connected perspective, one that has insisted on
connection and collaboration, C. A. Bayly™s Imperial Meridian marked
the beginning of an attempt to map the complicated history of the British
Empire from the late eighteenth century, considering the domestic in
relation to the imperial.43 His starting point was the transformations of
the Islamic empires of Eurasia and the decline of Mughal, Safavid and
Ottoman authority. It was this that paved the way for the expansion of
British power, and an aggressive imperial strategy driven by the army, the
military-¬scal state and the evangelical revival of the late eighteenth
century. New forms of absolutism and a revivi¬ed ruling class were
critical to this ˜Second Empire™. More recently, Bayly™s The Birth of
the Modern World has again insisted on the interconnected and global
Dirks, Scandal, 329.
P. J. Marshall, The New Cambridge History of India, vol. II, part 2: Bengal: The British Bridgehead,
Eastern India, 1740“1828 (Cambridge, 1987); Trade and Conquest: Studies in the Rise of British
Dominance in India (Aldershot, 1993).
Thanks to Tony Ballantyne for advice on Marshall and Bayly.
Philip Lawson, The East India Company: A History (London, 1993), 164; A Taste for Empire and
Glory: Studies in British Overseas Expansion, 1660“1800 (Aldershot, 1997).
C. A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian (London, 1989); ˜The British and Indigenous Peoples, 1760“1860:
Power, Perception and Identity™, in Martin Daunton and Rick Halpern (eds.), Empire and Others:
British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples, 1600“1850 (London, 1999), 19“41; The Birth of the
Modern World, 1780“1914 (Oxford, 2004).
processes associated with the West™s rise to power in the nineteenth
century, even though he minimises the signi¬cance of key axes of division
such as race, class and gender to this process. A. G. Hopkins has also
argued for a reconnection of the imperial and the domestic, again from
the perspective of an interest in globalisation, and an insistence that
globalisation has a complicated history that includes the epoch of the
European empires.44 Another historian of empire, Stephen Howe, was
one of the ¬rst to raise the issues of decolonisation in relation to
metropole and colony in his work on anti-colonialism and the British
left. More recently, he has emerged as a strong critic of postcolonial work
and a sceptic on questions of the impact of the Empire on metropolitan
The Manchester University Press ˜Studies in Imperialism Series™ has
marked a sustained effort to turn away from the institutional and high
political traditions of imperial history writing to a greater focus on the
social and the cultural, both in their ˜domestic™ and imperial contexts.
Edited by John MacKenzie and inaugurated in 1985 with his Propaganda
and Empire, it has transformed our knowledge of many aspects of the
Empire at home. Of the sixty volumes now published, at least half deal
with aspects of Britain™s imperial culture “ from his own classic edited
volume Imperialism and Popular Culture, to work on children™s and juve-
nile literature, the army, music, representations of the Arctic, considera-
tions of the end of empire, and the place of West Indian intellectuals in
Britain.46 This constitutes a body of work that has signi¬cantly shifted the
parameters of knowledge about the interplay between the domestic and the
imperial. In an evaluation of the debates over empire and metropolitan
culture written for the Oxford History of the British Empire (a series that
had almost nothing to say on the subject), MacKenzie discussed the argu-
ments of those sceptics who see ˜no impact™ and concluded that ˜Empire

A. G. Hopkins, ˜Back to the Future: From National History to Imperial History™, Past and Present,
164 (1999), 198“243; (ed.) Globalization in World History (London, 2002).
Stephen Howe, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918“1964

(Oxford, 1993); Ireland and Empire: Colonial Legacies in Irish History and Culture (Oxford, 2000);
˜Internal Decolonisation? British Politics since Thatcher as Postcolonial Trauma™, Twentieth
Century British History, 14 (2003), 286“304.
These include John M. MacKenzie, Propaganda and Empire (1984); John M. MacKenzie (ed.),
Imperialism and Popular Culture (1986); Jeffrey Richards (ed.), Imperialism and Juvenile Literature
(1989); Kathryn Castle, Britannia™s Children: Reading Colonialism Through Children™s Books (1996);
Rob David, The Arctic in the British Imagination, 1818“1914 (2000); Jeffrey Richards, Imperialism
and Music: Britain 1876“1953 (2001); Stuart Ward (ed.), British Culture and the End of Empire
(2001); Bill Schwarz (ed.), West Indian Intellectuals in Britain (2003); Heather Streets, Martial
Races and Masculinity in the British Army, 1857“1914 (2004).
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 13
constituted a vital aspect of national identity and race-consciousness, even if
complicated by regional, rural, urban, and class contexts™.47 Other histor-
ians of Britain have also been part of the turn to integrating the domestic
with the imperial. Miles Taylor™s body of work on nineteenth-century
imperial ideas and their connections with other traditions of political
thought, alongside his investigation of the impact of empire on 1848, stands
out here.48
Meanwhile, historians of Scotland, Ireland and Wales have been
concerned to explore the relation between empire and the making of the
United Kingdom. John MacKenzie raised these questions for Scotland, at
a time when issues of Scottish national identity (and therefore separate
and speci¬c contributions to empire) had come to the fore in the context
of devolution. Both Tom Devine and Michael Fry have adopted a
somewhat celebratory note, and both suggest that access to empire was a
very signi¬cant reason for Scotland to stay in the Union. The Scots,
Devine argues, were particularly important in the Caribbean and he
concludes that ˜the new Scotland which was emerging in the later
eighteenth century was grounded on the imperial project. The Scots were
not only full partners in this grand design but were at the very cutting
edge of British global expansion.™49 The complex position of Ireland,
both part of the UK and colonial, has been a subject of much debate
among historians. Christine Kinealy argues in this volume that Ireland
continued to be treated as a colony by successive British administrations
after the Act of Union, despite its constitutional position within the
United Kingdom. ˜Ireland™s rulers in the nineteenth century,™ as David
Fitzpatrick concludes, ˜whether grim or benevolent, tended to regard the
Irish as a separate and subject native population rather than an integral
element of a united people.™50 Furthermore, as many have noted, Ireland
provided an important model for imperial government, as the debates
over landownership and taxation in Ireland and India demonstrate. But as
Keith Jeffery has suggested for Ireland, and Aled Jones and Bill Jones for

John M. MacKenzie, ˜Empire and Metropolitan Cultures™, in Wm. Roger Louis (ed.), The Oxford
History of the British Empire, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1998“9), vol. III: The Nineteenth Century, ed. Andrew
Porter (1999), 292.
See, for example, Miles Taylor, ˜Imperium et Libertas?™; ˜John Bull and the Iconography of Public
Opinion in England c1712“1929™, Past and Present, 134 (1992), 93“128; ˜The 1848 Revolutions and
the British Empire™, Past and Present, 166 (2000), 146“80.
John M. MacKenzie, ˜Essay and Re¬‚ection: On Scotland and the Empire™, International History
Review, 15 (1993), 714“39; T. M. Devine, Scotland™s Empire, 1600“1815 (London, 2003), 360;
Michael Fry, The Scottish Empire (Edinburgh, 2001).
David Fitzpatrick, ˜Ireland and the Empire™, in Porter (ed.), The Nineteenth Century, 495“521.
Wales, the Irish and the Welsh were often content to be British in pursuit
of imperial lives across the Empire.51
Linda Colley has been in the forefront of arguing for a global context
for British history. Her classic work on the centrality of France and of
Protestantism to Britons™ notions of a distinctive national identity was
followed up with an important essay that linked Britishness to questions
of empire. More recently her focus has been on captivity as a lens through
which to consider what she de¬nes as the fragility of empire and the
vulnerability of ˜the small island™ at the heart of the imperial web.52 David
Cannadine has also ventured into the debates over reconnecting the
metropolitan and the colonial. His Ornamentalism, conceived as a pop-
ular intervention in the current debates over empire, sees imperialism as a
safety-valve for Britain™s aristocracy.53 Questions of race, he argues, have
been given far too much emphasis to the exclusion of the class dynamics
of empire, a position which has earned the book much deserved criticism.
As many commentators have noted, Cannadine™s focus on the role of the
elite in empire building has masked issues of power, violence and
exploitation.54 Even more controversially, Niall Ferguson™s recent work
provides an apology for empire, with an ideologically driven account that
refuses the complexities of imperial histories.55
Feminist historians of Britain, alongside those working in the ¬elds of
literary and visual representation, have also been in the forefront of
exploring the imperial legacy. This scholarship is often more interested in
interdisciplinary approaches than other historians would countenance. In
the past ¬fteen years a large body of research, much of it in¬‚uenced by
postcolonial as well as feminist theory, has challenged the domestic/
imperial divide from an explicitly theoretical and anti-colonial position
and has established the salience of empire from the beginnings of mod-
ernity. Fanon has been a critical in¬‚uence here, with his insistence on the
Keith Jeffery (ed.), ˜An Irish Empire™? Aspects of Ireland and the British Empire (Manchester, 1996);
Aled Jones and Bill Jones, ˜The Welsh World and the British Empire, c. 1851“1939™, in Carl Bridge
and Kent Fedorowich (eds.), The British World: Diaspora, Culture and Identity (London, 2003),
Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707“1837 (London, 1992); ˜Britishness: An Argument™,

Journal of British Studies, 31 (4) (1992), 309“29; Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600“1850
(London, 2002). For a thought-provoking critical review of Captives see Miles Ogborn, ˜Gotcha!™,
History Workshop Journal, 56 (2003), 231“8.
David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (London, 2001).
For a number of incisive critical evaluations see the special issue of Journal of Colonialism and
Colonial History, 3 (1) (2002), ˜From Orientalism to Ornamentalism: Empire and Difference in
Niall Ferguson, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global
Power (New York, 2002).
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 15
racialised systems of imperial rule and his recognition of the ways in
which ˜Europe™ was created by colonialism.56 Thanks to this recent
scholarship we now know a great deal about the ways in which repre-
sentations of the imperial world and its peoples circulated in the
metropole, about the place of written and visual texts in producing and
disseminating racial thinking, about the signi¬cance of museums and
exhibitions in representing peoples of the empire to the metropolitan
public, and about the place of empire in the construction of English/
British identity. We also know some of the ways in which the manage-
ment of colonial sexuality was central to British rule at the intersection of
national and imperial interests, about how debates over key political
questions, such as suffrage, intersected with empire, about the impact of
the two world wars on understandings of nation, race and colonialism,
about debates over the category of British subject and the issue of
nationality, and about the presence of colonised subjects in the metro-
pole.57 Work on the legacy of empire in the period after decolonisation
has also been critical to challenging the idea that since the Empire was
disbanded without signi¬cant debate at home, this provides evidence for
the notion that the British were not really affected by it. Bill Schwarz™s
work on the memories of empire alongside Wendy Webster™s analyses of
popular culture have effectively disrupted any claim that the end of
empire was unremarked in metropolitan culture and politics.58
An initiative from a group of historians working on the dominions has
resulted in an effort to place the ˜British World™ back at the centre of
concerns. This was the world ¬rst described by Dilke in his Greater
Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London, 1967).
Because of space we can cite only a small portion of this literature, see, e.g. Antoinette Burton, At
the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (Berkeley,
1998); Sonya O. Rose, Which People™s War? National Identity and Citizenship in World War II
Britain (Oxford, 2003); esp. chs. 3 and 7; Philippa Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics: Policing
Venereal Disease in the British Empire (London, 2003); Kathleen Wilson, The Island Race:
Englishness, Empire and Gender in the Eighteenth Century (London, 2003); Catherine Hall, Keith
McClelland and Jane Rendall, De¬ning the Victorian Nation: Class, Race, Gender and the British
Reform Act of 1867 (Cambridge, 2000); Ian Christopher Fletcher, Laura E. Nym Mayhall and
Philippa Levine (eds.), Women™s Suffrage in the British Empire: Citizenship, Nation and Race
(London, 2000); Laura Tabili, ˜We Ask for British Justice™: Workers and Racial Difference in Late
Imperial Britain (Ithaca, 1994); Susan Thorne, Congregational Missions and the Making of an
Imperial Culture in Nineteenth-Century England (Stanford, 1999); Deborah Cherry, Beyond the
Frame: Feminism and Visual Culture, Britain 1850“1900 (London, 2000); Annie E. Coombes,
Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and
Edwardian England (London, 1994).
Bill Schwarz, Memories of Empire (Oxford, forthcoming); Webster, Englishness and Empire ;
Imagining Home: Gender, ˜Race™ and National Identity, 1945“64 (London, 1998); Ward (ed.), British
Culture and the End of Empire.
Britain and taken up by Seeley in his Expansion of England “ the world
created by British migration and settlement.59 In 1974 Pocock, thinking
from a New Zealand perspective, raised questions about the possibilities of
a new form of British, not English, history. He was troubled by the new
enthusiasm for Europe and the forgetting of empire and Commonwealth.
British history, he argued, needed to be reinvested with meaning; a
remapping of historical consciousness was required which would result in
more plural and multicultural accounts. The new history should be one
of contact and penetration, encompassing the three kingdoms, and the
settlements in east and west. It needed to be ˜post Commonwealth, extra
European and highly internationalist™.60 One effect of this can be seen in
the turn to ˜four nations™ histories. Another long-term effect of this may
have borne fruit in the sequence of ˜British World™ conferences and pub-
lications. Some of the energy for these has come from those working in the
white colonies of settlement and struggling with the silence on empire in
societies where the effort to create a national history has resulted in a
repudiation of the signi¬cance of the imperial past.61
Most recently Bernard Porter has raised the issue of ˜how much™ the
Empire mattered. The British generally, argues this king of the sceptics,
were not much interested in or affected by empire. A particular kind of
imperialism “ blatant, ˜dominating imperialism™ “ did not saturate British
society and the ˜everyday life™ of Britain that included consuming the
products of empire was not an effect or manifestation of ˜dominating
imperialism™.62 It was sugar, for example, that rotted the teeth of the
people, not the Empire. Nor did other forms of Britain™s involvement in
the wider world, such as travel, necessarily have imperial undertones.
Porter is concerned with how much, or how signi¬cantly (in comparison
to other factors such as class) empire (speci¬cally ˜dominating imperial-
ism™) affected the British people and how imperialist it made them. He is
also concerned with whether empire or imperialism can be seen as the

Charles Wentworth Dilke, Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries
During 1866“7 (London, 1869); Seeley, The Expansion of England.
J. G. A. Pocock, ˜British History: A Plea for a New Subject™, New Zealand Historical Journal, 8
(1974), repr. in The Journal of Modern History, 47 (4) (1975), 601“21; ˜The Limits and Divisions
of British History: In Search of the Unknown Subject™, American Historical Review, 87 (2) (1982),
Roundtable on ˜Was there a British World?™, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 6 December
2005. Bridge and Fedorowich (eds.), The British World; Philip Buckner and Doug Francis (eds.),
Rediscovering the British World (Calgary, 2005); Kate Darian-Smith, Patricia Grimshaw and Stuart
Macintyre (eds.), Britishness Abroad: Transnational Movements and Imperial Cultures (Melbourne,
Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists (Oxford, 2004), 313.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 17
origin of particular aspects of British life, including the development of
racism. Andrew Thompson™s recent assessment of the impact of
imperialism on Britain is closer to the position that we take in this
book.63 Like MacKenzie he argues that there was no single or monolithic
imperial culture in Britain. While the effects of empire may at times have
been ˜relatively discrete™, he suggests, ˜in certain areas of British public life
they were so closely entwined with other in¬‚uences and impulses as to
become thoroughly internalised™.64
From a very different perspective historians of Britain™s population of
colour have worked to recover ˜hidden histories™ and dismantle the
metropolitan/colonial binary by documenting the presence of black and
South Asian peoples in Britain over a long period and exploring the
complex diasporan histories of different colonised peoples. Since the
1980s there have been sustained efforts to open up these histories,
demonstrating the diverse ways in which subjects of empire have chal-
lenged racial hierarchies and claimed a place as citizens both in the
metropole and on multiple imperial sites.65 This work has helped to undo
the erasures that have been part of the practice of historical writing in
Britain, for, as Trouillot argues, ˜the production of traces is always also
the creation of silences™ and history is always ˜the fruit of power™.66
Many of the historians working in these varied initiatives share the
impulse to reconnect the histories of Britain and empire. Yet the devel-
opments in this ¬eld have been hotly contested and a site for ˜history wars™
over interpretation. In part this has to do with politics and the new salience
of debates over race and empires. It also has to do with the demarcations of
the discipline and the anxieties evoked by new developments that threaten
long-established boundaries. While imperial historians are concerned by
the claims of some historians of Britain to move on to their terrain, plenty
of British historians are alarmed by the decline of national history and the
increased demand, particularly in the United States, for transnational skills.
At the same time the interdisciplinary nature of the new scholarship, fed
as it is by literary, visual, anthropological and geographical concerns, has

Andrew Thompson, The Empire Strikes Back? The Impact of Imperialism on Britain from the Mid-
Nineteenth Century (Harlow, 2005).
Ibid., 5, 6.
Classic texts include, Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain: (London,
1984); Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London, 2002); for a recent example
see Jan Marsh (ed.), Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800“1900 (Manchester and
Birmingham, 2005).
Michel-Rolphe Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston, 1995),
29, xix.
raised other issues. Interdisciplinarity, as we have learned, means more
work, the hard discipline of engaging with different bodies of scholarship.

this book™s perspective
The authors writing in this volume have come to questions of metropole
and colony variously in¬‚uenced by feminism, Marxism and post-
colonialism. The inspiration to engage with imperial history came from
feminist politics and the politics of race both in the UK and the USA
from the 1980s. Questions of class had been made more complex by
gender. The category of gender was disrupted in its turn as issues of race
and ethnicity became increasingly pressing in British society. Once the
empire had ˜come home™, the geographical gap between metropole and
colony destabilised by the arrival of large numbers of Afro-Caribbean and
South Asian men and women, questions about the legacy of imperial
power in the heartlands of London, Birmingham or Glasgow became
more pressing. What was the place of race in British society and culture?
What was the relation between feminism and imperialism? Were con-
structions of masculinity in Britain and in other parts of the Empire
connected and if so, how? These were some of the ¬rst questions to
occupy feminist historians who began to explore the relation between an
imperial past and a postcolonial present.67
Transnational feminism, with its focus on the construction of racialised
and gendered subjects, was critical to this work, but so was Fanon, as we
suggested earlier, Said (for his insistence that the colonial was at the heart
of European culture), Foucault (for new understandings of the nature of
power and the technologies of governmentality) and many others.68 At
the centre of the common project of colonial critique was a focus on the
politics of difference “ how difference, meaning inequality (as it did in
colonial societies), was produced and reproduced, maintained and con-
tested. What was the imperial ˜rule of difference™ at any given historical

Antoinette Burton, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women and Imperial Culture,
1865“1915 (Chapel Hill, 1994); Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ˜Manly Englishman™ and
the ˜Effeminate Bengali™ in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester, 1995); Catherine Hall, White,
Male and Middle Class: Explorations in Feminism and History (Cambridge, 1992); Vron Ware,
Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History (London, 1992); Clare Midgley, Women Against
Slavery: The British Campaigns, 1780“1870 (London, 1992).
M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpede Mohanty (eds.), Feminist Genealogies, Colonial
Legacies, Democratic Futures (New York, 1997); for two accounts of some of the in¬‚uences at work
see Hall (ed.), Cultures of Empire, esp. 12“16; Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects (Cambridge,
2002), 8“20.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 19
moment? And while empires certainly did not create difference they
thrived on the politics of differences “ not just those associated with race
and ethnicity but also those of gender and of class, of sexuality and
Grammars of difference and hierarchies of inequality existed of course
long before the late eighteenth century. Property ownership, gender and
forms of religious belonging marked subjects centuries before the lan-
guages of class or of separate spheres were codi¬ed. Cultural essentialism
in early modern England, Ania Loomba argues, did the ideological work
that race later did. Associations between Islam and blackness were already
established in medieval and early modern writing and outsiders were
never safely outside, as the ¬gures of Othello and Shylock so evocatively
demonstrate.70 By the eighteenth century colonial encounters had pro-
duced forms of racial thinking as a body of scholarship has now shown “
and Englishmen and women understood themselves in relation to
multiple others of the nation, empire and beyond.71
But a new historical conjuncture at the end of the eighteenth century
and beginning of the nineteenth century brought with it reworked con-
ceptions of race, nation and empire “ the starting point for our volume.
Revolutionary thinking and religious revival, the defeat of Napoleon™s
empire, the end of one British Empire and the expansion of another,
engendered new forms of colonial rule.72 Systems of classi¬cation became
more central, partly associated with new technologies of measurement
such as the census. As Nancy Stepan argued long ago, once slavery was
abolished in the British Empire in 1834 new ways had to be found of
explaining inequalities between peoples “ the language of race was a key
instrument in this process.73 Increased classi¬cation may also be asso-
ciated, as Frederick Cooper has suggested, with the shift from ascribed
status associated with land to a new polity associated with rights, though
such an argument might work better for France than for England.74 After
1815 British colonial of¬cials and their collaborators explicitly constituted
For Partha Chatterjee™s notion of ˜the rule of colonial difference™ see The Nation and its Fragments:
Colonial and Post-Colonial Histories (Princeton, 1993), 10.
Ania Loomba, Shakespeare, Race and Colonialism (Oxford, 2002).
E.g. Kathleen Wilson, ˜Citizenship, Empire and Modernity in the English Provinces, c. 1720“90™,
Eighteenth Century Studies, 29 (1) (1995), 69“96; The Island Race; Kathleen Wilson (ed.), A New
Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire 1660“1840 (Cambridge,
2004); Felicity Nussbaum, Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality and Empire in Eighteenth Century
English Narratives (Baltimore, 1995); Roxanne Wheeler, The Complexion of Race: Categories of
Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (Philadelphia, 2000); Colley, Captives.
72 73
Bayly, Imperial Meridian. Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science.
Cooper, Colonialism in Question, 28.
populations into ethnically speci¬c, gendered subjects, marked peoples as
different and ruled them according to those differences. They utilised
categories and classi¬cations that legitimated inequalities of power. The
marking of difference across the Empire was never only about race, and
never only the binary of coloniser/colonised. Rather there were multiple
axes of power. But race was critical to imperial power because empires
were constituted of diverse peoples, living in varied sites, some of whom
ruled others. ˜Race is a foundational colonial sorting technique™, as Ann
Stoler argues, and ˜like all classi¬catory techniques, it is based on estab-
lishing categories and scales of comparison™.75 These could work on the
register either of biology or of culture. Such differences never could be
¬xed for they were neither natural nor self-evident. And the British
Empire with its complex mapping of difference across European, South
Asian, African, Caribbean, Antipodean and North American territories
never produced a set of stable dichotomies of coloniser and colonised,
citizens and subjects: rather these were always matters of contestation.
Since empires depended on some notion of common belonging, there
was a constant process of drawing and redrawing lines of inclusion and
exclusion. The British Empire was held together in part by the promise of
inclusion, all British subjects were the same, while at the very same time
being fractured by many exclusions. These included the practices of
citizenship and sexuality as the chapters by Philippa Levine and Keith
McClelland and Sonya Rose show in this volume.
The classi¬cation of subjects across the Empire was also a process of
positioning in a social space demarcated by notions of the metropolitan
and the colonial “ here/there, then/now, home/away. Dissolving these
idealised dualities and insisting on considering metropole and colony
within the same analytic frame has been a concern for many historians in
the past decades as we have seen. The chapters in this book dissolve the
metropole/colony binary, a ¬ction that was at the very heart of the taken-
for-granted view of Britain as an imperial power by showing how, in
different ways that varied over time, the British metropole was an imperial
˜home™. As Alan Lester has argued, ˜colony and metropole, periphery and
centre, were and are, co-constituted™.76 We maintain that while ˜home™ “
metropolitan Britain “ was a part of the Empire, it was imagined by those
within the metropole as a place set apart from it in spite of Britain™s role

Ann L. Stoler, ˜Haunted by Empire: Domains of the Intimate and the Practices of Comparison™,
in Stoler (ed.), Haunted by Empire (Durham, NC, forthcoming).
Lester, ˜Constructing Colonial Discourse™, 29.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 21
within it. This imagined sense of impervious boundaries allowed for and
was promulgated by a historical sensibility portraying Britain as an ˜island
nation™ mostly untroubled by its imperial project.
Historical speci¬city is also critical to our project in this book. The
detail of how relations shifted in time and place, the varied chronologies “
of political ideologies, of racial thought, of traditions of resistance and
contestation, of patterns of production and consumption, of religious
belief, of class and gender relations and family forms, of popular culture “
all of these and many other variables need to be explored if we are to
properly comprehend the place of empire in metropolitan life. The essays
in this book focus on the nineteenth century, in part because this has been
the period which has been most researched to date. Those that do con-
sider the twentieth century rarely go beyond the 1930s, and only Philippa
Levine and Cora Kaplan make connections with the postcolonial period.
Fortunately work is now in progress on the twentieth century and in the
next few years our grasp of the impact of empire both in the interwar
period and in the second half of the century, when the Empire came
home, is bound to increase.
As was so clear at that moment of ˜coming home™, empire linked the
lives of people in the metropole to global circuits of production, dis-
tribution and exchange, to the exploitation and oppression of millions of
other imperial subjects. National and local histories were imbricated in a
world system fashioned by imperialism and colonialism. We need, as
Mrinalini Sinha argues, ˜a mode of analysis that is simultaneously global
in its reach and conjunctural in its focus™.77 At the same time, prior to
decolonisation, ˜being imperial™ was simply a part of a whole culture, to
be investigated not as separate from but as integral to peoples™ lives.
Britain™s imperial project affected the everyday in ways that shaped what
was ˜taken-for-granted™ and thus was not necessarily a matter of conscious
awareness or deliberation. With the exception of those in some of¬cial or
quasi-of¬cial roles, for most people, empire was just there “ out there.
It was ordinary.78 We do not argue that empire was the sole in¬‚uence on
the constitution of ˜Britishness™, which was always an unstable form of
national belonging or identity. In¬‚uences from the Continent and after
the late eighteenth century from the United States, Russia, Turkey and
Japan were felt at home in Great Britain. It is important, however, to
Mrinalini Sinha, ˜Mapping the Imperial Social Formation: A Modest Proposal for Feminist
History™, Signs, 25 (4) (2000), 1077“82.
Gail Lewis, ˜Racialising Culture is Ordinary™, in Elizabeth B. Silva and Tony Bennett (eds.),
Contemporary Culture and Everyday Life (Durham, 2004), 111“29.
keep in mind that during the period that we cover in this book, European
empires were critical in a world-historical perspective and on occasion
had a direct impact on the British metropole as Laura Tabili™s essay in
this volume emphasises.
Even when Britishness, itself, was rejected by people within Great
Britain as a national identity, that very rejection could well indicate the
insidious presence of imperial Britain in the lives of its inhabitants. For
example, when Raymond Williams was asked if he recalled from his
childhood if the Welsh thought of themselves as British, he replied, ˜No,
the term was not used much, except by the people one distrusted.
˜˜British™™ was hardly ever used without ˜˜Empire™™ following and for that
nobody had any use at all, including the small farmer.™79 While this might
appear to indicate that empire had no in¬‚uence in early twentieth-century
Wales, Williams™ statement suggests that it helped to shore up a Welsh
national identity in contrast to a British/English one.

empire and the everyday
Empire was omnipresent in the everyday lives of ˜ordinary people™ “ it was
there as part of the mundane “ of ˜a familiar and pragmatic world which
under normal circumstances, is taken for granted, neither questioned nor
especially valued™, to quote Patrick Wright.80 Britain™s imperial role and its
presence within the metropole shaped peoples™ identities as Britons and
informed their practical, daily activities.81 It was a part of what Michael
Billig has termed, ˜banal nationalism™.82 Billig suggests that people are
reminded in many little ways ˜of their national place in a world of nations.
However, this reminding is so familiar, so continual, that it is not con-
sciously registered as reminding. The metonymic image of banal nation-
alism is not a ¬‚ag which is being consciously waved with fervent passion; it
is the ¬‚ag hanging unnoticed on the public building.™83 Racial thought was

Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters (London, 1979), 26. For a discussion of Williams™
statement in connection with an idealised English/British ˜home™, see Simon Gikandi, Maps of
Englishness (New York, 1996), 28“9.
Patrick Wright, On Living in an Old Country (London, 1985), 6. We thank Geoff Eley for
reminding us of Wright™s discussion of the nation and everyday life.
These ideas draw upon those of Pierre Bourdieu “ and, to use his language, we are arguing that
Britain™s status as an imperial nation and the presence of the Empire within the metropole shaped
what Bourdieu has called the habitus or set of more or less durable predispositions that lead
individuals to act in particular ways. See Pierre Bourdieu, Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice
(Cambridge, 1990); for a helpful introduction to Bourdieu™s ideas see John B. Thompson™s
˜Introduction™ to Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, ed. Thompson (Cambridge, 1991).
Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London, 1995). 83 Ibid., 8.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 23
also part of the everyday, intimately linked with though not contained by
the imperial. The colour of skin, the shape of bones, the texture of hair
as well as less visible markers of distinction “ the supposed size of brain,
capacity for reason, or form of sexuality “ these were some of the ways that
modern metropolitans differentiated between themselves and others. ˜Race
yet lives™, as Thomas Holt puts it, ˜because it is part and parcel of the means
of living.™84 The story of how race was naturalised, made part of the
ordinary, is both linked to and over¬‚ows from that of the Empire. But as a
number of the chapters in this volume suggest, there are particular his-
torical moments when those everyday, taken-for-granted ideas become
questioned or consciously underlined. These include times of imperial
crises such as the Indian Mutiny, the Morant Bay uprising and the
Amritsar massacre, periods when fears became rampant that ˜hordes™ of
˜aliens™ were threatening the national fabric, moments of widespread
political debate over fraught imperial issues such as Home Rule for Ireland
or in wartime when the imperial nation and the Empire were threatened or
were perceived to be under threat. As Paula Krebs noted, for example, the
contradictions of imperialism were exposed to public view during the Boer
War ˜through the publicity awarded by newspapers to the concentration
camps™ that housed Boer women and children.85 As a consequence, ideas
such ˜as the right of the British to control Africa seem to have moved from
the sphere of ideological hegemony into the openly negotiable realm of
public opinion™.86 The extraordinary is present within the everyday, but it
is only at particular moments “ instances of disruption or some intense
experience “ that it provokes conscious awareness and the possibility of
critique.87 Thus the everydayness of empire held within itself a potential for
visibility and contestation that its ordinariness disguised.88
It is this ˜everydayness™ or ˜taken-for-grantedness™ of empire in the
British metropole that we are underlining by giving this volume the title,
At Home with the Empire. Being at home has a number of different
resonances. The word ˜home™ means a ˜domestic™ space that refers to both
the ˜private™ domain of family whose members are related to one another

Thomas C. Holt, ˜Race, Race-making and the Writing of History™, American Historical Review,
100 (1) (1995), 1“20.
Paula Krebs, Gender, Race and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War
(Cambridge, 1999), 35.
Ben Highmore, Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction (London, 2002), 115.
Highmore is drawing here on the ideas of Henri Lefevbre.
Elizabeth B. Silva and Tony Bennett, ˜Everyday Life in Contemporary Culture™, in Silva and
Bennett (eds.), Contemporary Culture and Everyday Life, 5.
by virtue of kinship and the imperial metropole.89 The term ˜domestic™
also has a number of different resonances. According to the Oxford
English Dictionary, from 1545 it pertained to one™s own country or
nation; internal, inland home; from 1611 its meaning included belonging
to the home, house or household; household, home, family; and from
1660 it also came to mean indigenous, home-grown and home-made. In a
very provocative discussion, Amy Kaplan writes, ˜ ˜˜Domestic™™ and ˜˜for-
eign™™ are . . . not neutral legal and spatial descriptions, but heavily
weighted metaphors imbued with racialized and gendered associations of
home and family, outsider and insider, subjects and citizens.™90 She
suggests that ˜domestic has a double meaning that links the space of the
familial household to that of the nation, by imagining both in opposition
to everything outside the geographic and conceptual borders of home™.91
The metaphorical connections between domestic, home and nation on
the one hand, and their opposition to the Empire on the other, were
especially evocative during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as
the Empire expanded and the ideology of domesticity in middle-class
England held sway. Towards the end of the nineteenth century as the
ideology of domesticity was threatened by the growth of feminism and as
the imperial nation was perceived to be in danger of degeneration on the
one hand, and competition from other imperial nation states on the
other, and later by nationalist movements in the colonies, the emotional
power of the connection between home, the domestic and the imperial
metropole, if anything, was strengthened. These were places of safety and
security, of family and emotional bonds.
It signi¬es the comfort of being taken into the bosom of one™s family as
well as being utterly at ease with a subject or issue and being on familiar
ground. As Guha has suggested, it is a world of ˜known limits™, and as
such it is a space of ˜absolute familiarity™ outside of which is its opposite “
the ˜unimaginable and uncomfortable™.92 The outside, in other words, is
imagined as the world of difference. Home is built upon a ˜pattern of
select inclusions and exclusions™.93 This is a utopian vision as difference is
also uncomfortably present within the familiar, familial home divided as
it is by gender and age differences “ differences that unsettle an imagined
For a helpful discussion of this point see Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling, Home (London, 2005),
esp. ch. 4.
Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Cambridge, MA, 2002), 3.
Ibid., 25.
Ranajit Guha, ˜Not at Home in Empire™, Critical Inquiry, 23 (3) (1997), 483.
Rosemary Marangoly George, The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth-century
Fiction (Cambridge, MA, 2002), 3.
Introduction: being at home with the Empire 25
sense of absolute unity signi¬ed by the word ˜home™. Just as the nine-
teenth-century distinction between the domestic or private sphere and the
public sphere was an imagined one, so too is the boundary between
˜home™ and its ˜outside™ illusory. Indeed, the association between ˜home™
and comfort and ease or security and protection may be understood
within the realm of fantasy. As such, it is always unstable and a space that
must be defended. As Morley and Robins have put it, ˜home™
is about sustaining cultural boundaries and boundedness. To belong in this way
is to protect exclusive, and therefore, excluding identities against those who are
seen as aliens and foreigners. The ˜Other™ is always and continuously a threat to
the security and integrity of those who share a common home.94
Furthermore, to be ˜at home™ with the Empire is to imagine the imperial
world under control by the metropole and a state of affairs that one can and
does ˜live with™. But that sense of being in control is persistently haunted by
the consequences of the violence upon which that control is based.
Ironically, being ˜at home™ with the Empire, being comfortable with
the idea of being imperial, being accustomed to its sometimes shadowy
presence fostered and was dependent upon a geographical imagination
that bifurcated the political and economic space of empire into a
bounded ˜home™ which was physically and culturally separated from the
colonised ˜other™.95 As Rosemary Marangoly George has put it, ˜ulti-
mately . . . distance in itself becomes difference™. As a home place, a place
that was thoroughly familiar, it was imagined to be essentially impervious
to the Empire of which it was a part. Home kept the ˜other™ peoples of the
Empire at a distance, ˜their™ strange climates, fruits and vegetables and
peoples of colour were living in places that were incommensurable. As for
the temperate zones, there it was easier to imagine a home from home “
but always marked by difference, for Australia had its sugar plantations
and rainforests as well as its sheep, its Aboriginal peoples as well as its
hardy settlers. And yet, the notion of ˜home™ was informed by tropes of
material comfort associated with food, cleanliness, etc., themselves
dependent upon imperial products.
The history of home was to be comprehended as one that was
internally driven by special virtues that inhered in a homogeneous people

David Morley and Kevin Robins, Spaces of Identity, Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and
Cultural Boundaries (London, 1995), 89.
Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London, 1978), 55. For further discussion see Gregory, The Colonial
Present, 17.
as Catherine Hall™s essay on Macaulay suggests. The imagined bound-
edness of the metropolitan ˜home™ was based on a common-sense geo-
graphical history of an island nation mostly untroubled by its imperial
project. This imagined geography of separation was a crucial logic of

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