. 5
( 12)


Johnstone, editor of Tait™s Edinburgh Magazine from 1834 to 1846 and
the only woman to edit a major Victorian periodical before the 1860s,
wrote around a ¬fth of its articles, actively sought other women,
including Martineau, as contributors and personally reviewed new
women writers of the 1830s and 40s.64 She took up a strongly anti-slavery
position, assessed the potential of the Australian colonies for emigration,
sympathised with Irish poverty and identi¬ed the wrongs done to indi-
genous peoples in both Australia and South Africa.65 In reviewing the

Leask, Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing, 237“8; Parks, Wanderings of a Pilgrim, vol. II, 8.
Barbara Caine, ˜Feminism, Journalism and Public Debate™, in Shattock (ed.), Women and
Literature, 99“117.
Martineau, ˜Van Dieman™s Land™ and ˜Rajah Rammohun Roy on the Government and Religion of
India™, Monthly Repository, 6 (1832), 372“80 and 609“15; ˜What Shall We Do with the West
Indies?™, New Monthly Magazine, 34 (May 1832), 409“13.
Alexis Easley, First-Person Anonymous: Women Writers and the Victorian Print Media, 1830“70

(Aldershot, 2004), 61“72.
See Johnstone™s articles in Tait™s Edinburgh Magazine (all references are to o.s.), ˜British Emigrant
Colonies: New South Wales™, 5 (1834), 401“19; ˜Martineau™s Society in America™, 8 (July 1837), 404“24;
˜Wrongs of the Caffre Nation™, 8 (August 1837), 515“23; ˜Abolition of Negro Apprenticeship™, 9
(March 1838), 135“48; ˜Alexander™s Discoveries in . . . Africa™, 9 (November 1838), 727“39; ˜South
The condition of women 117
travel writers discussed above she commented particularly on their
approach to the condition of women, and took especial note of Anna
Jameson™s view that the situation of Native American women might be
no worse than that of working women in Britain.66
By the mid-nineteenth century, feminists who shared the political
outlook of Johnstone and Martineau were drawing on the Enlightenment
narrative of women™s history to argue the case for women™s suffrage. In her
1841 review of works on the situation of women by Martineau, Jameson
and others, Margaret Mylne contrasted the freedom of the unveiled
English woman with the imprisonment of the ˜poor Turk con¬ned to the
harem™ and argued that economic progress tended to equalise the condi-
tion of the sexes.67 Marion Reid™s A Plea for Woman (1843) contrasted the
progress modern civilisation brought to women™s place as ˜the menial slave
to her lord™ in ˜savage nations™ or ˜alternately his slave and his plaything™ in
˜barbarous states™. But, recognising the continuing ˜subjugation of the sex™
in the modern West, her goal remained the achievement of perfect liberty
and equal rights for all adults.68 Harriet Taylor™s essay ˜The Enfranch-
isement of Women™ endorsed this. Taylor wrote of women in primitive
tribes as ˜the slaves of men for the purposes of labour™, in Australia as well
as among Native Americans, and of the ˜habits of submission™ of both the
women and the men of Asia. If Christianity and commerce had achieved
some changes in the past, further improvement required women™s direct
intervention. Like Reid, Taylor called for women™s equality, not for them
to act as ˜a sentimental priesthood™.69 But the feminism of the later
nineteenth century united Enlightenment concepts of progress with its
own version of woman™s mission to civilise.
By 1850 what George Stocking has called the ˜problem of civilisation™
had been transformed, to re¬‚ect assumptions integral to middle-class
reforming culture: free trade; representative government; middle-class
domesticity and sexual restraint; Protestant Christianity.70 But, increasingly,

Australia, and Penal Colonies™, 9 (December 1838), 776“89; ˜Australian Emigration™, 10 (March 1839),
168“76; ˜Moffat™s Missionary Labours in Southern Africa™, 13 (August and September 1842), 528“44,
597“604; ˜Quaker Mission to South Africa™, 15 (October 1844), 630“3.
˜Miss Martineau™s Political Economy™, 1 (August 1832), 612“18; ˜Anglo-Indian Society™, 6 (October
1835), 683“93; ˜Mrs Postans™ Cutch; or . . . Western India™ , 9 (January 1839), 28“35; ˜Jameson™s
Winter and Summer in Canada™, 10 (February 1839), 69“80, here 69.
P. M. Y. (Margaret Mylne), ˜Woman and Her Social Position™, Westminster Review, 35 (1841),
24“52, here 32 and 35.
Marion Reid, A Plea for Woman (Edinburgh, 1988), 2, 24.
Harriet Taylor, ˜The Enfranchisement of Women™, Westminster Review, 55 (July 1851), 289“311,
here 302“11.
George Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (New York, 1987), 30“6.
empire was being de¬ned in more sharply racial terms. By the late 1840s
the notion of the Anglo-Saxon ˜race™ was a familiar one, and the existence
of biologically determined racial differences was asserted in works such as
Thomas Carlyle™s ˜Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question™ (1849)
and Robert Knox™s Races of Men (1850). The Indian rebellion of 1857
shocked British con¬dence, and the sensational reports of sexual violence
against British women strengthened the sense of a crisis in imperial
authority, countered by the establishment of the Indian Empire and an
emphasis on the coercive and military foundations of British rule.71 At the
same time, historians were writing for the nation (as Maria Graham had
for children) an English (not British) political narrative of a providentially
favoured country, uniquely progressing towards greater freedom, as dis-
cussed above by Catherine Hall. Such history coexisted with an evolu-
tionary anthropology, which appropriated the assumptions of progress
and provided another means of justifying the civilising mission. These
imperial concerns were incorporated into writing addressed to women.
Kathryn Ledbetter has demonstrated how between 1847 and 1863 such a
conservative periodical as the Lady™s Newspaper not only discussed
women™s emigration but published news of colonial politics and violent
military confrontations, including those in India.72
Harriet Martineau™s later writing and journalism demonstrated her
changing understanding of imperial responsibilities. She reached her
widest audience in her leaders for the Daily News, from 1852 to 1866. The
¬rst six were on emigration to Australia, a subject on which she had
lectured to her neighbours in Ambleside. She urged that not only working
women but educated women should be encouraged to go, to earn their
own dowries or livings.73 Nevertheless she was much more interested in
Ireland, the West Indies and, above all, India, especially from 1857.
Though in her History of British India (1857) she wrote of Hindu civili-
sation as once ˜nearly at the head of human civilisation for a thousand
years before our own™, and criticised British ignorance of India, she also
wrote of ˜the bottomless chasm which yawns between the interior nature

Jenny Sharpe, Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text (Minneapolis, 1993),
Kathryn Ledbetter, ˜Bonnets and Rebellions: Imperialism in the Lady™s Newspaper™, Victorian
Periodicals Review, 37 (2004), 252“72; Nupur Chaudhuri, ˜Race, Gender and Nation in
Englishwoman™s Domestic Magazine and Queen, 1850“1900™, in Finkelstein and Peers (eds.),
Negotiating India, 51“62.
Daily News, 8 June 1852, in Elisabeth Sanders Arbuckle (ed.), Harriet Martineau in the London
Daily News: Selected Contributions, 1852“66 (New York, 1994), 4“8; R. K. Webb, ˜Harriet
Martineau™s Contributions to the London Daily News™, in ibid., 317“430.
The condition of women 119
of the Asiatic and the European races™, and saw ˜strenuous military action™
as the next inevitable stage in the imperial mission.74 Her articles in the
Daily News adopted a sentimental nationalism in focusing on the
˜unparalleled atrocities™ committed against English women and children
in India in 1857.75
Narratives of progress, united to a Christian and civilising mission,
were to strengthen the claims of white middle-class women to exercise
philanthropy and authority towards the Empire as well as the nation.
However, the early writings of the women™s movements were cautiously
conformist. The ¬rst feminist periodical, the English Woman™s Journal,
published from 1858 to 1864, limited itself to issues of education,
employment and philanthropy rather than confronting the central poli-
tical institutions of the nation. Although its editors were not evangelical,
it was committed to a mission of moral and social improvement, to both
middle- and working-class women, and it actively supported abolitionism
There is, surprisingly, virtually nothing on India in its pages in these
years, although its many articles on Algeria, and occasionally on Turkey,
display a predictable orientalism.
However, emigration by educated women to the colonies of settle-
ment, for gainful employment, was a constant theme. The editor of the
Journal, Bessie Parkes, described ˜judicious, well-conducted and morally
guarded emigration to our colonies™ as the key to the surplus of educated
women in Britain.76 Maria Rye founded the Female Middle Class
Emigration Society in 1862 to promote the emigration of single educated
women. The Journal frequently reprinted letters from emigrants and
articles from correspondents on the conditions to be encountered in the
colonies.77 And considerable attention was paid to middle- and upper-
class women™s philanthropy in Ireland. S. Meredith, from Cork, wrote of
the philanthropic work of Protestant ladies™ committees, in the aftermath
of the famine of 1846“7, in overseeing the labour of women and girls in
producing muslin, crochet work and lace, and their entrepreneurial

Martineau, History of British Rule in India, in Logan (ed.), Martineau™s Writings on the British
Empire, vol. V, 17, 142, 168.
Daily News, 5 and 12 September 1857, quoted in Logan, ˜Introduction™, in ibid., vol. V, xiii“xiv.
Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science (1860), 818, quoted in A.
James Hammerton, Emigrant Gentlewomen: Genteel Poverty and Female Emigration, 1830“1914
(London, 1979), 126“37.
Maria Rye and Bessie Parkes, ˜Stray Letters on the Emigration Question™, English Woman™s Journal
(EWJ ), 8 (December 1861), 237“44; ˜Stray Letters on Emigration™, EWJ, 9 (April 1862), 109“10;
˜Letters on Australia and New Zealand™, EWJ, 9 (August 1862), 407“10; ˜Middle-class Female
Emigration Impartially Considered . . .™, EWJ, 10 (October 1862), 73“84.
initiatives to provide work for destitute women. This emphasis on the
responsibilities of ˜a well-developed female power™ of philanthropy was in
tune with the Journal™s mission. But Meredith also wrote of the differ-
ences between the pauper women of England and Ireland. Only ˜intel-
ligent female supervision™ could help ˜the hindrances of ignorance and
poverty, found so much more in the south than the north of Ireland™.78
From the 1860s the women™s suffrage movement focused more directly
on the parliamentary institutions of the imperial nation state, in a period
of growing male enfranchisement and party mobilisation. Its supporters,
women and men, were in the 1860s and 70s mainly radicals and liberals
from urban provincial elites, often Protestant nonconformists, united in
their opposition to aristocratic dominance of central institutions. They
shared a background of activism in abolitionism, campaigns for free
trade, and the common interests of nonconformist Protestantism and
philanthropy. Though resistant to the militarist and aristocratic aspects of
the British state, these suffragists still drew upon the discourses of civi-
lisation, the gendered histories of progress discussed above, in their
writings and speeches.79
By the late nineteenth century, leading ¬gures in the women™s move-
ment had developed their own nationalist and imperialist rhetoric,
incorporating Britain™s progressive civilising mission. Antoinette Burton™s
work has demonstrated the signi¬cance of the imperial mission to India
for late nineteenth-century feminism. The periodicals of the British
women™s movement, especially the Englishwoman™s Review, regularly
reported on the situation of women in other countries across the world, in
the column ˜Foreign Notes and News™, which by 1891 had become
˜Colonial and Foreign News™. This included much detailed material on
the situation of women, and progress of women™s movements, in all
European countries, North America and the colonies of white settlement,
and on ˜the status of women in uncivilised nations™, particularly in India,
though with reference to many societies across the world. There were
debates and differences within the Review, though even those who eval-
uated most positively the condition of Indian women suggested that their
education was a task to which English women should commit themselves.

˜Female Industrial Employments in the South of Ireland™, EWJ, 1 (July 1858), 332“8; S. C. Meredith,
˜Cultivation of Female Industry in Ireland™, EWJ, 9 (July 1862), 304“12 and 10 (September 1862),
Jane Rendall, ˜Citizenship, Culture and Civilisation: The Languages of British Suffragists 1866“74™,
in Melanie Nolan and Caroline Daley (eds.), Suffrage and Beyond: International Feminist
Perspectives (Auckland, 1994), 127“50.
The condition of women 121
Readers would ¬nd much in the Review on British women™s support for
that education, as in, for example, Lady Dufferin™s Fund for Female
Medical Aid. The case for medical aid justi¬ed both British women™s
training in medicine and their mission to extend such training to Indian
women. Indian women™s successes were reported brie¬‚y. The career of the
educated and Christian Pandita Ramabai was followed in more detail, in
ways which re¬‚ected credit on British in¬‚uence. Burton suggests that the
most signi¬cant effect of the Review and the feminist press was the sense
of community created among its readership, an ˜imagined community™
de¬ning itself in relationship to a civilising and imperial mission to
India.80 The Englishwoman™s Review also reported in considerable detail
the progress of women™s political demands and their ultimate successes in
New Zealand and the Australian states, contributing again to the ˜ima-
gined community™ of international white feminism, still primarily Pro-
testant. Ireland ¬gured very prominently in the Review, though the
periodical was clearly identi¬ed with the unionist interest. In its response
to the formation of the Ladies Land League in 1881, the Review sym-
pathised with women of the Protestant Irish gentry defending themselves
against the threat of violence.81 However, by the end of the nineteenth
century the divisions among British feminists, liberal, radical and socia-
list, over imperial issues, notably Home Rule for Ireland and the Boer
War, were also apparent throughout the varied feminist press.
The nineteenth-century British women™s movement was shaped by
discourses of femininity, which while emphasising the private and the
domestic also stressed women™s wider moral responsibilities. From the
late eighteenth century onwards, white upper- and middle-class British
women legitimised their claims for empowerment in print, on the
grounds of their philanthropic, civilising and educational responsibilities,
in the Empire as well as in Ireland and at home. These civilising projects
were by the second half of the nineteenth century to be incorporated
within women™s demands for a formal place in the imperial nation state,
demands which for the most part also rested on a gendered sense of
responsibility and, also, in differing degrees, on a collective and historic
identity with the unity of the Empire.
Burton, Burdens of History, 97“126.
Margaret Ward, ˜Gendering the Union: Imperial Feminism and the Ladies™ Land League™,
Women™s History Review, 10 (2001), 71“92, here 76.
chapte r six

Sexuality and empire
Philippa Levine

South Asian women arriving at London™s airports in the late 1970s were
shocked to ¬nd that they might be required to undergo a test to deter-
mine whether they had prior sexual experience. These ˜virginity tests™
were one of the more notorious measures pioneered to weed out ˜genuine™
from ˜dishonest™ migrants of South Asian origin. Women arriving as
¬ancees of South Asian men already in Britain were the targets of this
practice which rested on a slew of assumptions about gender and sexuality
that we can trace back with little effort to colonial days. The immigration
service™s position was that South Asian women entering Britain as brides
would be virgins, and testing them would thus identify fake applicants for
entry. While public protests and well-organised women™s campaigning
saw this controversial test quickly abandoned, it points nonetheless, and
in vivid manner, to how ideas and assumptions about colonial sexuality
found expression in Britain.1 Examples such as this not only demonstrate
the effects of its colonial past within Britain, but also reveal just how
central a role sexuality has played in shaping that complex legacy.
Despite the shaping of modern Western societies around the parallel
binaries of public and private and of male and female, the allegedly
private world of sexuality has constantly blurred those always unstable
boundaries. Fears around sexuality derive as much from the challenge this
instability offers to a simple division of male and female worlds as they do
from the religious proscriptions and prescriptions which have linked
procreation and sexuality so tightly. Moreover, this inability to make
distinctions effective and ¬xed lies at the heart of the relationship between
sexuality and colonialism, and offers a window on to why sexuality was
so prominent among the anxieties associated with imperialism. Ann
Laura Stoler has convincingly argued that discourses of sexuality traced
through imperial routes ˜have mapped the moral parameters of European
nations™, establishing a deep connection that traces the effects of empire
See, for example, the articles reprinted in The Spare Rib Reader, ed. Marsha Rowe (Harmonds-
worth, 1981), 501“3.

Sexuality and empire 123
at its very centre, and which suggests the pliability of sexual values and
Sexuality is a sometimes slippery and certainly a much contested term.
Here I take it to signify not a biological category, but a social and cultural
one, a set of in¬nitely ¬‚exible practices for making sense of desire. In the
Christian-imbued environment of imperial Britain, desire was something
to be restrained and controlled lest it overwhelm its metaphoric opposite:
reason. The regimes of bodily discipline produced in the imperial era
(regulating age of consent and marriage, sexual partnering, auto-eroticism
and much, much more) suggest the centrality of sexuality in both public
and private realms. Robert Young™s point that British literature in the
imperial period was endlessly concerned with interracial sexual liaisons
points us to the racial character of these bodily disciplines, while Anne
McClintock™s work illuminates their gendered speci¬cities.3 This potent
coming together of some of the most anxiety-ridden social questions of
the day (around race, gender and sex) produced a distinctive attention
to colonial sexualities (real and imagined, bodily and fantastical) with
signi¬cant implications within Britain.
Fears and laws around sexuality almost invariably focused on the
control of women, and it is in this association of women and sexuality
that colonial thinking about sexuality was shaped. Whether it was a fear
of the sexualised woman who had stepped beyond male authority or
whether, conversely, it was a fear that the traditionally meek woman
would be sexually violated by lawless and lustful colonials, these anxieties
made sex a key site of imperial fear, concern and action. Such colonially
imbued apprehensiveness was not limited to far-¬‚ung outposts, but had
considerable and tenacious purchase within Britain as well.
In the decades after the Second World War, and at the height of
British decolonisation, British immigration was concerned largely with
questions of labour, and the typical colonial immigrant was depicted as a
wage-earning man, either single or with a family left behind in his place
of origin. Immigration law, while increasingly preoccupied with con-
trolling how many ˜non-whites™4 entered the country, devolved largely on
the apportioning of work-speci¬c vouchers. Men, as the primary
Ann L. Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault™s History of Sexuality and the Colonial
Order of Things (Durham, NC, 1995), 7.
Robert J. C. Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (London, 1995), 2“3; Anne
McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context (New York, 1995), 5.
This homogenising language “ of white and ˜non-white™ “ re¬‚ects the lamentable tendency so
common in both colonial and postcolonial periods to lump together a signi¬cant diversity of
peoples, linked largely by their experience of a coercive colonialism. Its use is, I think, signi¬cant,
migrants, were the principal targets of immigration control. In the 1970s,
the balance began to shift as these men, now established in Britain, sought
to bring in their kin. The focus of immigration law moved towards
˜secondary™ migration, the entrance into Britain of women from colonies
and former colonies “ as wives and as brides. Upholding a vision of
traditional sexual roles which allotted men to the labour force and women
to domesticity, the immigration service paid increasing attention to family
settlement. Following the uproar over virginity testing, a new rule, the
˜primary purpose™ rule, was introduced in 1980 and enshrined in the 1981
British Nationality Act. Its intent was to assess whether a marriage was
merely a ruse for attaining otherwise unallowable residence rights in
Britain. The new rule gave immigration of¬cials the power to de¬ne what
constituted a real marriage; cultural differences in what a marriage was and
what it looked like were swamped by the views and opinions of those
charged with ˜protecting™ British boundaries. Profound double standards
ensued; South Asian women engaged to be married had to be virgins, a
requirement attached to no other women in late twentieth-century Britain.
This reading of South Asian culture as conservative and restrictive to
women followed a long-standing colonial path of deeming Indian as well
as other colonial cultures as narrowly con¬ning women, and therefore as
backward and unmodern. This view highlighted some critical assumptions
about colonial sexuality that coloured domestic policy. Critically it tended
to treat as a homogeneous mass South Asian immigrants from markedly
different regions and cultures. Many South Asians who came to England
after the 1960s knew little more of India than the of¬cials assessing them.
Never resident in India, they came to Britain after being expelled from
former British colonies in Africa. The embracing of a nationalist Pan-
Africanism in those countries left no room for the long-settled Indian
communities, now regarded as an unwelcome legacy of colonial days.
British immigration of¬cials saw this imaginary Indian monoculture as
more controlling of female sexuality than British society, an assumption
highlighting the link between colonialism and sexuality. From at least the
eighteenth century, scientists and philosophers had associated a society™s
civilisational capacity with its treatment of women.5 James Mill™s is only
the most famous of many similar utterances: ˜Among rude people, the
women are generally degraded; among civilised people they are exalted.™6

for it reveals the ways in which colonising powers stripped the colonised of their speci¬cities, and
by extension, of their humanity.
See Jane Rendall™s chapter in this volume.
James Mill, History of British India (1818), 2 vols. (New York, 1968), 309“10.
Sexuality and empire 125
The more brutal the treatment of women, went colonial thinking, the
more primitive the society. But brutality could take many guises and a
tight rein on female sexuality (the virginal bride) was only one variant on
a theme of extraordinary malleability. Primitive societies were seen to
cloister women and to routinise unchastity, both evidence of uncivilised
behaviours. Nineteenth-century accounts of colonial societies are full of
tales of Aboriginal men selling their womenfolk to Japanese pearl divers
for the season, and of ˜castes™ in India in which prostitution was the
occupation demanded of women.7 These dread stories existed alongside
equally breathless tales of women captive in harems and in purdah,
unable to walk alone or without heavy clothing to hide them from the
public eye.8 A fear that Britons would be affected or infected by foreign
immorality haunts the literature as early as the eighteenth century, and, I
would argue, continues to in¬‚uence the anti-immigration sentiments that
emerged so powerfully in postwar Britain. That women, and women™s
sexuality most critically, became central to an immigration policy
avowedly centred on labour availability, is more than mere accident: it
cements the critical links between sexuality and politics. And in this
instance it also lays bare how much colonial attitudes continued to haunt
postcolonial Britain.
Reconciling the contrasting attitudes of colonial conservatism and
colonial over-sexedness is not as dif¬cult as it might seem at ¬rst glance:
these were stereotypes, albeit highly polarised ones, which functioned to
separate British rationality from the allegedly passionate unreason and
unruliness of colonials; their lack of reason in the sexual arena mirrored
colonial incapacity for self-rule. It is by no means insigni¬cant that when
commentators talked of colonial sexualities, it was seldom of white
Australians and Canadians, but of peoples of colour, separated from
white settlers by temperament and physical features, and by distinctive
attitudes to sexuality and to nudity. Sexuality was a deep measure for the
British of colonial otherness. The settler colonies in general were regarded
as slightly inferior versions of Britain itself, where British values and social
structures could, among settler populations, be successfully replicated. Yet
fears around colonial sexuality nonetheless followed, more particularly
where settler populations lived in tropical climates and among ˜native™
peoples. There was a constant concern, of¬cial and otherwise, about how
For multiple examples see Philippa Levine, Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease
in the British Empire (New York, 2003).
Janaki Nair, ˜Uncovering the Zenana: Visions of Indian Womanhood in Englishwomen™s Writings,
1813“1940™, Journal of Women™s History, 2 (1) (1990), 8“34.
far the habits and morals associated with the allegedly libidinous tropics
would rub off on the new residents. In northern Australia and in South
Africa, in particular, these anxieties bubbled beneath the surface con-
stantly, rising occasionally to a greater visibility, mostly over questions of
labour and of sexuality. Some of the Australian colonial legislatures in the
1890s debated whether female age of consent laws should mirror those
recently passed in Britain, since many believed that the age of menarche
came earlier to youngsters raised in warmer climes.9 Such ideas grew
directly from notions of colonial sexuality forged in Britain and depen-
dent on a vision of colonial sexual ˜otherness™.
As early as the seventeenth century, in Britain and in Europe, the
display of Africans and other ˜exotics™ was commercially successful. So-
called pygmies, Zulu warriors, women with large buttocks all joined the
display for pro¬t that also exhibited those with spectacular medical
conditions such as elephantiasis.10 It was a craze that brought considerable
gain to entrepreneurs in Britain, continental Europe and the United
States.11 The best known of these human exhibits was Sara (also called
Saartjie by her Dutch masters at the Cape) Baartman who was shown in
Britain and in France from 1810 and, sporadically, until her early death in
1816. Shrewdly advertised as the ˜Hottentot Venus™, Baartman™s sexual
characteristics were thus marketed and signalled up front as the attraction;
engravings, cartoons and prints from the period emphasise that she was
presented in scanty dress designed to draw attention to her breasts,
genitals and buttocks.12 Baartman™s display is in a sense a commercialised
culmination of some centuries™ worth of sexual fascination with female
colonial sexuality. Rumours regarding South African sexual difference
from Europeans can be traced back at least to the seventeenth century.

Ross Barber, ˜The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1891 and the ˜˜Age of Consent™™ Issue in
Queensland™, Australia and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 10 (1977), 95“113; Queensland
Parliamentary Debates 1887 (LII), 1889 (LVIII), 1891 (CXIII).
Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge, 1978); Susan Stewart, On Longing (Durham,
1993); Rosemarie Garland Thomson (ed.), Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body
(New York, 1996).
Bernth Lindfors, ˜˜˜The Hottentot Venus™™ and Other African Attractions in Nineteenth-Century
England™, Australasian Drama Studies, 1 (2) (1983), 83“104; Anne Fausto-Sterling, ˜Gender, Race,
and Nation: The Comparative Anatomy of ˜˜Hottentot™™ Women in Europe, 1815“17™, in Kimberley
Wallace (ed.), Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture (Ann Arbor,
2002), 78.
Z. S. Strother, ˜Display of the Body Hottentot™, in Bernth Lindfors (ed.), Africans on Stage: Studies
in Ethnological Show Business (Bloomington, 1999), 25. See, too, Sander L. Gilman ˜Black Bodies,
White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art,
Medicine, and Literature™, in Henry Louis Gates (ed.), ˜Race™, Writing and Difference (Chicago,
1986), 223“61.
Sexuality and empire 127
The term ˜Hottentot™ used to describe the Khoisan peoples of the Cape of
Good Hope has an even longer lineage but, according to Linda Merians,
an interest in their genitalia dates only from the late seventeenth century.13
The earliest interest of Europeans in the Khoisan was prompted not by the
women, but by the practice among Khoisan men of removing one testicle.
The 1797 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica lists the Hottentots as
among the class of ˜Monsters™, ˜having one testicle extirpated™.14 In the 1842
edition, the interest in the men has disappeared, but the ˜protuberances™
of the women are noted as common.15
Colonial sexualities were thus pathologised in part through an excessive
attention to the physical aspects of colonial peoples, most especially their
genitals, and partly through the association of lechery with primitiveness.
Yvette Abrahams sees Baartman™s exhibition in Europe as ˜the turning
point toward exhibiting the savage as raw sexuality™.16 The primary
reading of colonised peoples through their sexuality reinforced existing
hierarchies. The suspicion that ˜primitive™ peoples would sport equally
primitive genitalia lay at the heart of the fascination with the ill-fated
Baartman.17 Her alleged labial apron, hanging down almost like a ¬‚accid
penis, raised not only the spectre of the masculinised woman whose
sexual organs were not easily distinguishable from those of men, but,
equally critically, of a wholly different sexuality, separate from that of the
West. A prominent, unre¬ned, outsized set of genitals could thus signify
the larger coarseness of the ˜primitive™, too preoccupied with the world of
the ¬‚esh to muster much concern for the reason of the West. The colonial
world was fecund and lush, it was highly charged and over-abundant, and
even where it was settled by Britons the local environment had to be tamed
if it was not to overcome the frail but essential ties to civilisation. This
critical separation of passion and reason, of the sexual and the rational,
made colonial sexualities always something to be feared and to be leashed.
The sexuality and sexual behaviour of colonial women of colour was
always prominent in the accounts of travellers. Certainly dress styles and
more relaxed attitudes to the body contributed to British attention to

Linda E. Merians, Envisioning the Worst: Representations of ˜Hottentots™ in Early-modern England
(Newark, London and Cranbury, 2001), 130.
˜Man™, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd edn (1797), vol. X, 508.
˜Africa™, ibid., 7th edn, (1842), vol. II, 226.
Yvette Abrahams, ˜Images of Sara Bartman: Sexuality, Race and Gender in Early Nineteenth-
Century Britain™, in Ruth Roach Pierson and Nupur Chaudhuri (eds.), Nation, Empire, Colony:
Historicizing Gender and Race (Bloomington, 1998), 227.
T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive
Narratives in French (Durham, 1999), 29.
these matters, but more was at work than the titillation offered observers
more used to the clothed female body. As Jennifer Morgan has argued,
˜Europe had a long tradition of identifying others through the monstrous
physiognomy and sexual behavior of women™, a foil against which proper,
ordered, civilised whiteness “ in this case, Englishness “ could be mea-
sured.18 The complex ways in which nature was ¬gured as female and thus
controllable and exploitable were deeply signi¬cant here, blending not
always consciously with the associations between colonialism and con-
quest that grew so rapidly from the eighteenth century.19 It is no small
coincidence that European philosophy in the eighteenth century stressed
the potency of classi¬catory knowledge as the means to control nature
at much the same moment as European colonialism expanded its grip
on the world. Colonial sources and resources were crucial to both com-
mercial and intellectual enterprises; Anne Fausto-Sterling argues that
scienti¬c interest in Sara Baartman™s body was shaped by colonial
expansion, which from its beginnings had been preoccupied with sexual
difference. And Baartman™s body was also a site of both commercial and
intellectual exploitation within a frame only made possible by the impact
of imperialism in the region of her birth.20 Paula Giddings notes that
interest in Baartman™s body coincided with debates over slavery and the
slave trade, an association which further underscores the link between
colonialism and the ˜monstrous™ reading of colonial sexuality.21 Likewise,
the Cape was, at the time of Baartman™s initial showing in London, one
of Britain™s newest colonies (1806), and one where missionary activism had
gained special protective status for the Khoisan in light of Dutch brutality.
These were bodies that could be held in colonial power, sometimes for
pro¬t, sometimes for protection “ and they were highly sexualised bodies,
as the long-standing attention to ˜Hottentot™ genitalia suggests.
The contrast invoked by Baartman™s display in London and in Paris
was between civilisation and barbarism, between reason and passion,
between beauty and monstrosity. Sexuality crystallised all of these factors,
acting as a cipher for critiques of the colonial, also already feminised in

Jennifer L. Morgan, ˜ ˜˜Some Could Suckle over Their Shoulder™™: Male Travelers, Female Bodies,
and the Gendering of Racial Ideology, 1500“1770™, William and Mary Quarterly, 54 (1) (3rd ser.)
(1997), 170.
Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scienti¬c Revolution (San
Francisco, 1980).
Fausto-Sterling, ˜Gender, Race, and Nation™, 67.
Paula Giddings, ˜The Last Taboo™, in Toni Morrison (ed.), Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power:
Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas and the Construction of Social Reality (New York, 1992), 444
and 445.
Sexuality and empire 129
Western eyes by the fact of conquest. Throughout the colonial period, in
Britain as well as in the colonies, sexuality, then, was the literal subject of
an endlessly mapped metaphor for the necessity of colonial rule. But how
did this operate in Britain itself? Clearly, the exhibiting of women like
Baartman reinforced a notion of sexual difference between the British and
those they colonised, a difference with a critical aesthetic quality. Whe-
ther we turn to the pages of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
natural history or to the sketches made by the minor civil servant Arthur
Munby in the 1870s, what becomes apparent is a widespread concern
in Britain with the relationship between race, sexuality and beauty. The
colonised were depicted as ugly by comparison with the re¬nements of
European features. They were simian more than human in their resem-
blance. Munby™s sketches of the Wigan pitbrow lasses are extraordinary in
this regard, and though I would be wary of seeing Munby as an archetype
of British maleness in the Victorian era, the seemingly unconscious
reproduction of this aesthetic in his realist drawings is worth some
attention.22 Griselda Pollock maintains that Munby™s portraits of
begrimed northern women labouring at the English coalface are ˜so other
than the white femininity they opposed, they can only be imagined in the
racist stereotypes created by an imperial bourgeoisie for its colonised
other™.23 Yet, as Pollock reminds us, Munby™s written descriptions
emphasise the humane and sociable qualities of women ¬gured in his
drawings as part-animal, part-African. It was in the ways that Munby
imagined this nexus of class, race and gender that many in Britain
understood empire as sexuality, in which everything about and in the
colonies took on a sexualised quality.
Munby famously, although at the time secretly, married maidservant
Hannah Cullwick in 1873. Their life together suggests the deep links
between an eroticised colonialism and nineteenth-century sexual fanta-
sies. Photographs of Hannah, naked and posed as a slave, the use of
˜Massa™ (master) as her endearment for Munby, the ˜slave straps™ Cullwick
wore around her wrist and neck for him (and which in 1864 got her ¬red
from a job) closely link their sexual fantasies to the world of colonial
slavery as they imagined it. Blackness, mastery, submission, loyalty all

For details of Munby™s life, see Derek Hudson, Man of Two Worlds: The Life and Diaries of Arthur
J. Munby (London, 1972), and 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.
Griselda Pollock, ˜The Dangers of Proximity: The Spaces of Sexuality and Surveillance in Word
and Image™, Discourse 16 (2) (1993“4), 42.
¬gure in this sexual play, although as Carol Mavor rightly reminds us the
choice of sexual play was, in this relationship, often mutual.24 Certainly
Munby, a keen photographer, also took pictures of Cullwick in many
other poses “ but when she posed as a man, as an angel or as a ˜lady™ she
was fully clothed and also cleaned, no trace of ˜black™ about her.
William Sharpe, writing in 1879 on The Cause of Colour Among Races,
argued that darkened skin, which he declared ugly, was the result of
civilisational deterioration. His fear that similar degeneration was now
˜common in the very heart of our European civilization™ brought the fears
so central to this notion literally to the centre of the Empire.25 It was a
commonplace of the period to see the poor as akin to savages, a parallel
much more common in the age of high imperialism than in earlier eras.
And such correspondence rested more often than not on sexual analogies:
race was frequently de¬ned through and around sex, as much as, and
sometimes more than, via such visible signi¬ers as skin colour. Depictions
of Cullwick in these various guises neatly demonstrate this reading of
sexual difference through race.
Working-class women were also regarded as closer to the colonised “ in
their sexual habits, sexual preferences, allegedly greater libido and
apparent lack of modesty. In a variety of settings, as we shall see, British
authorities thought it prudent to maintain as wide a separation as possible
between working-class British women and colonial men, lest they cross
forbidden racial and sexual boundaries. This was a policy adhered to in
both colonial and domestic sites. But since so many more white women
were located in Britain, this was a question of particular concern at home.
One of the most common arenas in which we ¬nd this anxiety over
colonial sexuality expressed at home is in discussions around prostitution.
It was a nineteenth-century commonplace that large numbers of Britain™s,
and especially London™s, sex workers were foreigners. Equally, the
innocents of rural England were said to be easy prey for foreign traf-
¬ckers, mostly ¬gured as east-European Jews or Frenchmen. Alongside
these xenophobic imaginings of commercialised sexuality as an un-British
phenomenon was a growing debate about the effects of colonial prosti-
tution regimes on and within Britain. This was of particular concern in
the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as more soldiers were
posted to colonies where a military brothel system, of¬cial or otherwise,
Carol Mavor, Pleasures Taken: Performances of Sexuality and Loss in Victorian Photographs
(Durham, 1995), esp. 86.
William Sharpe, The Cause of Colour Among Races, and the Evolution of Physical Beauty (London,
1879), esp. 12“13.
Sexuality and empire 131
gave them easy and regulated access to the purchase of heterosexual sex.26
The champions of regulated colonial prostitution argued that without
British oversight, the men would contract tropical versions of sexually
transmissible diseases far more dangerous than domestic varieties, equat-
ing tropical and colonial sexuality with a greater element of peril. Others
saw a different risk: that men™s sexual associations with non-white women
would damage or undo their Britishness. Though emphasising different
aspects of the supposed sexual hazards involved, fears of colonial sexuality
in this arena rested on what the colonies might import into Britain to
unsettle domestic sexualities.
These distinctions shaped by colonialism operated within the British
sex trade too, and not only in the desire to present prostitution as a
foreign import. Commentators in the nineteenth century charged that
only the Irish among Britain™s prostitutes were willing to entertain as
clients the black colonial seamen who docked at Britain™s port cities.
Liverpool doctor Frederick Lowndes describes three streets in Liverpool™s
dock area where Irish prostitutes worked in what Lowndes called ˜black
men™s brothels™.27 The double bind of colonialism is vividly apparent in
his claim, which probably had some truth to it. Prostitutes certainly did
seek status “ and higher earnings “ through their clients, and servicing
black sailors would have raised neither a woman™s standing in white eyes
nor her income. It is quite likely that Irish women in cities such as
Liverpool and London, already subject to English prejudice, needed such
clients to make ends meet, and took them precisely because neither they
nor their black clients were welcome elsewhere.
Colonial attitudes to the Irish had for centuries equated them with
savagery. They had been drawn as different in kind from Britons, and
thus a ˜race™ suited to colonisation. A black clientele in sex work may well
have seemed natural to those for whom colonial subjection equalled
difference. The severe famine in the 1840s, which prompted substantial
Irish migration to England, must surely have underlined existing pre-
judices that saw the Irish as different and lesser. The political economists
of the nineteenth century, mindful of Irish Catholicism, declared the Irish
an improvident people whose overpopulation was to blame for the
Kenneth Ballhatchet, Race, Sex and Class Under the British Raj: Imperial Attitudes and Policies and
their Critics, 1793“1905 (London, 1980); Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics; David J. Pivar, ˜The
Military, Prostitution, and Colonial Peoples: India and the Philippines, 1885“1917™, Journal of Sex
Research, 17 (3) (1981), 256“69; Douglas M. Peers, ˜Privates off Parade: Regimenting Sexuality in
the Nineteenth-Century Indian Empire™, International History Review, 20 (4) (1998), 823“54.
Frederick W. Lowndes, Prostitution and Syphilis in Liverpool, and the Working of the Contagious
Diseases Acts at Aldershot, Chatham, Plymouth and Devonport (London, 1876), 8.
famine.28 Excess population, of course, rested on a concomitant belief in
sexual excess, an absolutely typical reading of colonial sexualities more
generally. Non-Protestant, other than white, subject peoples were fre-
quently and enthusiastically de¬ned by and through their fecund and
unseemly sexuality which many feared would penetrate and wreck
rational, temperate, moderate Britain.
Anne McClintock sees the prostitute as ˜the metropolitan analogue of
African promiscuity™, a troubling reminder of the need to control sexu-
ality, especially female and colonial sexualities.29 McClintock™s argument
is grounded in a broader literature which explores the African presence as
representative of abnormality and indeed monstrosity in European and
American discourse, yet it is too broad a generalisation to satisfy.30 If we
extend the argument more broadly, the point remains viable, for the
association of promiscuity and colonial society was a constant theme in
Britain. We can also see such parallels at repressive work in the related
arena of what was popularly called the ˜white slave trade™ in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The term had been coined in the
mid-nineteenth century to draw attention to the dreadful conditions of
women mill and textile workers, which protesters claimed were akin to
those endured by plantation slaves, but came instead to connote sexual
enslavement. Thoroughly imbued with a narrative of the innocent girl
victims of unscrupulous sex traders, the white slave trade panic grew in to
a huge political issue by the early twentieth century. Despite a striking
paucity of hard evidence and few successful prosecutions, the woeful tale
of the uninitiated girl lured into sex work by harsh pro¬teers became a
dramatic commonplace of journalism, ¬ction, morality literature, theatre
and education. It acquired a distinctively colonial face not only when
white women occasionally turned up in colonial brothels, but also
in white settler colonies where non-British migrants were regarded as
likely slave traders of local white girls.31 In British Columbia, in western
Canada, for example, early twentieth-century ordinances prohibited
Chinese men from employing white women in their businesses, restrict-
ing alike women™s employment opportunities and Chinese business

Patrick Brantlinger, Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800“1930

(Ithaca, 2003), ch. 5, esp. 108“9.
McClintock, Imperial Leather, 56.
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, MA,
1992) and Jan Niederven Pieterse, White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular
Culture (New Haven, 1992); Morgan, ˜Some Could Suckle™.
Philippa Levine, ˜The White Slave Trade and the British Empire™, Criminal Justice History, 17
(2002), 133“46.
Sexuality and empire 133
growth.32 The link to Britain was virtually seamless. In the race riots that
rocked Cardiff in 1919, one instigator of the violence claimed to have seen
˜little white girls, some no more than thirteen years old, running out™ of
the houses of Chinese men.33 The white slave trade narrative, with its
bifurcated vision of passive and innocent girls ensnared by aggressive and
amoral desires “ pro¬ts on the part of their keepers, sexual arousal on the
part of their clients “ secured a tale of colonial and foreign sexuality as
preying on feminine British innocence.
In the British context, the control of colonial sexuality was exercised
well beyond the quite narrow community of prostitution. The lives of
colonials resident in Britain were by the early twentieth century closely
managed. With the exception of the Jews and the Irish, migrants entering
Britain prior to the 1970s were predominantly male.34 This was so for
Europeans and non-Europeans alike, but women were an even smaller
percentage of colonial migrants of colour than of white migrants,
re¬‚ecting the gendered economic opportunities in Britain. While the
numbers of migrant men of colour remained quite small, especially before
the 1950s, there was nonetheless a constant rumbling disquiet about their
potential and actual relations with white women. Ian Spencer notes the
widespread suspicion in Britain that West Indian men lived largely off the
earnings of women prostitutes.35 Such a myth neatly coincided, of course,
with the strong belief that British prostitution was controlled by for-
eigners. The Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police™s Criminal
Investigation Division, F. S. Bullock, reported rather proudly in 1907 that
the men who ran the sex trade ˜are, almost without exception of foreign
nationality, and their occupation is repugnant to men of English race™.36
The assumption was self-ful¬lling; the returns of the Marlborough Street
police court in London in 1917 show that virtually all of the defendants
charged with brothel-keeping were foreign.37
But while prostitution could be read as an unnatural and un-British
state forced upon vulnerable innocents, interracial liaisons between

Constance Backhouse, Colour-coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900“1950 (Toronto, 1999).
Joanne M. Cayford, ˜In Search of ˜˜John Chinaman™™: Press Representations of the Chinese in
Cardiff, 1906“1911™, Llafur: Journal of Welsh Labour History, 5 (4) (1991), 46, quoting Edward Tupper.
Panikos Panayi, Immigration, Ethnicity and Racism in Britain, 1815“1945 (Manchester, 1994), 58.

Ian R. G. Spencer, British Immigration Policy since 1939: The Making of Multi-Racial Britain

(London, 1997), 79, 111.
National Archives, London (hereinafter NA). MEPO2/558. PP (Cd. 3453) Misc. No. 2 (1907).
Correspondence Respecting the International Conference on the White Slave Traf¬c Held in Paris,
October 1906, Annex 1.
NA. HO45/10837/331148 (19).
British women and colonial men living in Britain were harder to gloss. As
we shall see, such relationships helped spark the widespread race riots of
1919, but the antipathy to mixed-race sexual intimacies went well beyond
popular anger, and had a long history. Paul Edwards and James Walvin
have found pamphlet evidence of public antipathy to sexual associations
between British women and black men in late eighteenth-century Britain.38
Accounts of city slums in Britain frequently alluded to interracial intimacy;
women associated with migrant colonial men were ˜degraded, even below
the degradation of such a neighbourhood™.39 Laura Tabili™s work on the
white British wives of Somali men reveals the anxieties which surrounded
these relationships, and illuminates the fault lines of the colonial state in its
dealing with sexuality.40 The colonially in¬‚ected association of British
womanhood with sexual restraint and propriety unravelled when women
took as sexual partners men identi¬ed (by their colonial taint) as overly
sexed and un-British. Such partnerings not only reimagined British female
sexuality, but implied active choice on the part of women, another cause
for colonial and patriarchal alarm.
Relations between white women and men of colour were always
regarded with greater unease than the relationships white men had with
colonised women. The latter were frequently written off as an inevitable
by-product of normative male sexuality. This distinctive double standard,
which, in essence, licensed white male heterosexuality to seek out any and
all avenues of desire, reinforces the associations between sexuality and race
never far from the surface in the imperial context. Ideas about, opinions
of and studies in colonial sexuality invariably referenced and rested upon
racial considerations. That these considerations were also always gendered
in ways that permitted and indeed naturalised greater (hetero)sexual
freedom for men is equally critical in unpacking the hierarchies which
governed the era of British colonialism, itself an enterprise conceived as
fundamentally and naturally masculine. Gender divisions thus worked to
reinforce colonial hierarchies. Colonial conquest, symbolised by white
men™s sexual relations with colonised women, could not be safely reversed.
White women choosing relationships with colonial men implied danger to
Paul Edwards and James Walvin, Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade (Baton Rouge,
1983), 20.
Thomas Archer, The Pauper, the Thief and the Convict: Sketches of Some of their Homes, Haunts and
Habits (London, 1865), 133, quoted in John Marriott, ˜In Darkest England: The Poor, the Crowd
and Race in the Nineteenth-Century Metropolis™, in Phil Cohen (ed.), New Ethnicities, Old
Racisms? (London, 1999), 89.
Laura Tabili, ˜Empire is the Enemy of Love: Edith Noor™s Progress and Other Stories™, Gender and
History, 17 (1) (2005), 5“28.
Sexuality and empire 135
the colonial state and to white men™s supremacy. Such liaisons had to be
signalled as deviant and disorderly, while white men sleeping with women
of colour was seen merely as a natural extension of their residence in the
colonies, and certainly as greatly preferable to the prospect of male“male
sexual encounters which would wholly have undone the colonial hier-
archies so carefully constructed and constrained by these gendered orders.
Within Britain, interracial relationships between white women and
colonial men of colour were reasonably commonplace. Unions between
mostly poor, white British women and black colonial subjects were
regarded by the Colonial Of¬ce as ˜very undesirable™.41 This disapproval is
part of the long-standing debate over the immigration of men from the
overseas colonies into Britain. While in the late twentieth century the
principal fear was that their presence would lead to an increase in
the migrant population, at the start of the century it was fears that such
male migrants would ˜steal™ local women away that prompted attention.
In both instances, tellingly, sexual anxieties lay at the base of policy
decisions as well as of public reaction.
Throughout the period of colonialism, men (far more than women)
had drifted from the British colonies into Britain itself, sometimes
remaining for long periods. Many had arrived as workers aboard ships,
and British shipping ¬rms often actively recruited in the colonies for
menial workers for shipboard labour. They were a cheap source of labour,
and less likely than Britons to have been exposed to organised trade
unionism. During the First World War, colonial workers staffed the
merchant ships as British sailors joined up or were conscripted into the
Navy. Others came to Britain to work in the factories where the increased
demands of wartime welcomed their labour, alongside that of local
women. When war-driven manufacturing contracted in late 1918, colonial
workers found themselves, like British women, out of work. Many moved
to the port cities of Britain, hoping to ¬nd shipboard work that might
earn them a passage home, or at least a wage. Others, having entered into
relationships with local women, were committed to staying in Britain.
Both paths fuelled resentment. In the ¬rst six months of 1919, Britain
experienced a series of race riots frequently catalysed by sexual compe-
tition, and which can be understood only against the backdrop of British
exploitation of this colonial male workforce. In Cardiff most notoriously,
but also in South Shields in February, in Salford in March, in London in
April, in Liverpool in the early summer and in Glasgow in June, violence
NA. CO535/72/4296, quoted in Tabili, 8, n. 16.
erupted in working-class areas.42 Houses were sacked and burned, black
men were chased and attacked, and white women known to have black
partners were assailed for their choice. The riots were not focused
exclusively on interracial sexual liaisons; broader racism as well as eco-
nomic antagonism also kindled these hostilities, but sex was always
central. Neil Evans has found that in South Wales ˜[C]ompetition for
jobs, homes, and women were the crucial factors in 1919.™43 And Bill
Schwarz notes that ˜all pretence of English civility collapsed at the point
when black men were seen to be with white women™.44
The year 1919 was the culmination of a longer-term resentment which
wartime conditions helped exacerbate. The widespread use in the war of
colonial soldiers, in combat and more commonly as labour crews, had
spurred attention to the association of local women with visiting soldiers
and sailors.45 Colonial soldiers were a common sight in Britain in the war
years, although only those from the Dominions could move freely among
the local populace. There was widespread resentment that the better-paid
Canadian, New Zealand and Australian servicemen could treat women
more generously than could their British counterparts, and there was a
parallel alarm at the high rates of sexually transmissible infections among
this Dominion soldiery.46 It was, in fact, a major source of strain between
British and colonial politicians, frequently under discussion at the
Imperial Conferences in London during the war years.47 Yet sexual
relations between men from the Dominions and British women raised far
less public ire than did interracial sexual liaisons. Throughout the war,
newspapers reported breathlessly on white women consorting with men
of colour, and police and Home Of¬ce records abound with reports of
violent incidents catalysed by such relations. In London™s East End in July

Neil Evans, ˜The South Wales Race Riots of 1919™, Llafur, 3 (1) (1980), 5“29; Jacqueline Jenkinson,
˜The Glasgow Race Disturbances of 1919™, Immigrants and Minorities, 4 (2) (1985), 43“67;
Jenkinson, ˜The Black Community of Salford and Hull, 1919“21™, Immigrants and Minorities, 7 (2)
(1988), 166“83; Michael Rowe, ˜Sex, ˜˜Race™™ and Riot in Liverpool, 1919™, Immigrants and
Minorities, 19 (2) (2000), 53“70.
Evans, ˜South Wales Race Riots™, 22.
Bill Schwarz, ˜Black Metropolis, White England™, in Mica Nava and Alan O™Shea (eds.), Modern
Times: Re¬‚ections on a Century of English Modernity (London, 1996), 197.
Angela Woollacott, ˜˜˜Khaki Fever™™ and Its Control: Gender, Class, Age and Sexual Morality on
the British Homefront in the First World War™, Journal of Contemporary History, 29 (1994),
325“47; Susan R. Grayzel, Women™s Identities At War: Gender, Motherhood and Politics in Britain
and France during the First World War (Chapel Hill, 1999), ch. 4.
Philippa Levine, ˜Battle Colors: Race, Sex, and Colonial Soldiery in World War I™, Journal of
Women™s History, 9 (4) (1998), 111.
Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics, 163.
Sexuality and empire 137
1917, ˜a gang of youths™ attacked lodging houses where black men lived,
˜in consequence of the infatuation of the white girls for the black men in
the district™.48 The trouble escalated the next night when ˜a crowd of
about a thousand people assembled™ in front of the boarding houses. One
local man and one black man were each ¬ned £1.
It was not only working-class sexual resentment, however, which
manifested itself in wartime. The First World War, with its enormous
hunger for conscripts, its new technologies and its home front, focused a
new kind of attention on gendered bodies. The intense interest, in early
twentieth-century Britain, in ˜national ef¬ciency™ as a bulwark against
imperial decline emphasised the male body™s ¬tness for military service
and the female body™s ¬tness for reproduction.49 This intensi¬cation of
normative gender roles heightened the fears around contaminating sex-
ualities, sometimes with startling consequences. The War Of¬ce, for
example, imposed an extraordinary set of rules on the nursing of
wounded Indian soldiers convalescing in Britain, rules never applied to
Dominion convalescents. Indian soldiers were not only segregated in
racially exclusive settings, but those British nurses who staffed the Indian
hospitals were permitted no bodily contact with their patients. Male
orderlies and army medical personnel were required to undertake physical
tasks such as the dressing of wounds.50 The nurses were, by military ¬at,
only to ˜see to the cleanliness and orderliness of the ward™.51 Those
responsible for policing the sexuality of young British women painted a
picture of unruly and bold girls in constant sexual pursuit of uniformed
men. The women™s patrols organised by the National Union of Women
Workers reported in 1918 on women™s excitement when it was rumoured
that German prisoners of war were to be lodged nearby.52 Yet in such
cases no rules were issued to parallel those dictating that Indian soldiers
could not be nursed by white women, could not venture outside the
grounds of the hospital and could not talk to local women.
This squeamishness carried over into the Second World War where,
notes Sonya Rose, ˜[T]he outrage over young women™s morals intensi¬ed

The Times, 3 July 1917, 5.
Anna Davin, ˜Imperialism and Motherhood™, History Workshop Journal, 5 (1978), 9“65.
Jeffrey Greenhut, ˜Race, Sex, and War: The Impact of Race and Sex on Morale and Health
Services for the Indian Corps on the Western Front, 1914™, Military Affairs, 45 (2) (1981), 71“4;
Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics, 154“5.
Oriental and India Of¬ce Collection, British Library, London. L/MIL/7/17316. Reference Paper.
Military. 28 October 1914? H. A. Charles.
Imperial War Museum, London. Women™s Work Collection. Emp 42 1/4. Women™s Patrol
Committee reports. The location under discussion is, sadly, not revealed.
when the soldiers whom they dated were black.™53 In World War II the
issue was more about race than about colonialism, yet many of the themes
already visited here re-emerged strongly in the war years.54 Sonya Rose
shows how British moral outrage contrasted loose black male morals with
the innocence and simplicity of young English girls led astray.55 In earlier
years when colonial questions were more prominent, and in a war with
signi¬cant and long-term colonial implications, these racial observances
were profoundly about the workings and hierarchies of colonial rule
and the ever-present need to establish, ground and maintain a sense of
difference that was racial, sexual and political. The con¬‚ation of race and
sex, and perhaps most particularly in the kinds of moral panics that fed
the white slave trade alarm and the early twentieth-century race riots, was
a colonial question, one exacerbated by fears around miscegenation and
Assumptions about the nature and uncouthness of colonial sexualities “
always too much, always potentially, if not actually, out of control “
threatened the border between respectability and looseness, between
Britain and its subject peoples. After all, if the qualities of Britishness were
identi¬ed with the conquering and holding of the Empire, then sexual
mixing with the necessarily inferior subjects of that empire would surely
dilute British strength and destabilise British imperialism. It was in this
vein that much of the alarm over miscegenation took root, for the fear
of mixed-race progeny was composed of more than a mere abhorrence of
racial mixing. At least from the late eighteenth century, prominent sci-
entists had wondered whether the progeny of mixed-race parents might,
like mules, prove sterile.56 Others had stressed less the prospect of infer-
tility than the potential for degeneration, the inheritance of the weaker or
lesser characteristics of each parent. Tied in to this assumption was the
belief that those willing to cross racial lines in their sexual encounters were
themselves already of poor stock; ironically, that argument tended to
emphasise those whose sexual relations were permanent, rather than the
Sonya O. Rose, ˜Girls and GIs: Race, Sex, and Diplomacy in Second World War Britain™,
International History Review, 19 (1) (1997), 152.
David Reynolds, ˜The Churchill Government and the Black Troops in Britain During World
War II™, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 35 (1985), 113“33; Graham A. Smith,
˜Jim Crow on the Homefront (1942“1945)™, New Community, 8 (3) (1980), 317“28; Christopher
Thorne, ˜Britain and the Black GIs: Racial Issues and Anglo-American Relations in 1942™, New
Community, 3 (3) (1974), 262“71.
Sonya O. Rose, Which People™s War? National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain
1939“1945 (Oxford, 2003), esp. 255.
Sander L. Gilman, Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness (Ithaca,
1985), 107.
Sexuality and empire 139
more temporary liaisons of convenience colonising men often formed
when abroad. Where colonial interracial sexual relationships were at issue,
promiscuity was, ironically, a better option than ¬delity and child-raising!
Over the course of the nineteenth century, colonial of¬cialdom moved
from a cautious encouragement of sexual liaisons with locals (although
only those of white men and colonial women, and never vice versa) to
increasing prohibition of such relations.57 In the early years of empire,
such relations were seen as a valuable route in to local cultures; in later
years, they were regarded as threatening colonial prowess and promoting
political instability.
Concubinage had been seen in the early years of colonialism as a barrier
against homosexuality, and the spectre of male“male sex haunted discus-
sions of sexuality, race and colonialism. British of¬cials kept tabs on
in¬‚uential colonial men thought to engage in same-sex practices, and
homosexuality was frequently seen as foreign or colonial in origin. It was
both a metaphor for weakness and the sign of racial un¬tness. Paul Fussell
and Cynthia Enloe in particular have established beyond question the
multiple and sometimes complex associations between war and sexuality.58
As a project critically sustained and produced by military force, colonialism
could hardly not be read in sexual terms. But the erotics of war raised also
the question of same-sex desire, for wars have historically been homosocial
engagements deeply reliant on camaraderie, trust and intimacy among
men. Empire building and wars, as dominantly male environments, were
thus danger zones not only for mortality but for morality, for normative
heterosexuality. It was only by con¬guring homosexual preference or
practice as colonially produced, as a colonial ˜vice™ with no parallel in the
civilian or domestic realm, that the ¬ction of British sexual normativity
could be upheld. By channelling discussions of homosexuality through
reference to savagery and primitiveness, it could be symbolically, although
never realistically, kept at bay. One of the great fears aroused by colonial
sexualities more generally was that they would somehow unleash same-sex
desires, especially between men, undermining national tropes that ¬gured
heterosexuality and masculinity as de¬nitively British.
Sexuality was a complex canvas upon which the politics of colonialism
could be drawn. It was a malleable and an invaluable tool, which helped
regulate sexual behaviour and de¬ne proper and improper masculinity
Ronald Hyam, ˜Concubinage and the Colonial Service: The Crewe Circular (1909)™, Journal of
Imperial and Commonwealth History, 14 (3) (1986), 170“86.
Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford, 1975); Cynthia Enloe, The Morning
After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War (Berkeley, 1993).
and femininity, proper and improper sexual practices. And yet such
orderings were always in danger of unravelling, and perhaps nowhere
more so than in the evocation of the colonial within the realm of sexual
fantasy, an arena always outside and resistant to control. In pornographic
¬ction and photographs, in mainstream art and literature, the colonial
world became a canvas upon which was written every kind of sexual
fantasy “ homosexual as well as heterosexual, interracial and much else
besides. Outside governing boundaries, often avowedly hostile to pre-
vailing respectabilities, sexual fantasy nonetheless recognised the erotic
lure of the colonial world for Britons living in an imperial age. The selling
of Sara Baartman™s body to the paying public is a potent example of this
allure. From the eighteenth century onwards, and whether as caricature or
as titillation, the Empire represented for cartoonists and artists, photo-
graphers and writers, publishers and performers a means of expressing
sexual desire, innovation and daring as well as commerce. The imperial
site shown ˜at home™ was a place where otherwise inexpressible desires
could be manifested.
And it is through desire and its frightening connotations for imperial
rule that we can perhaps best appreciate how sexuality, perhaps more than
any other arena, illuminates Simon Gikandi™s point about British
imperial ambivalence: pride in imperial conquest and ownership seldom
extended to an actual colonial presence in Britain which was frequently
seen as threatening.59 After all, sexual relationships involving colonials
and locals would likely result in a more permanent colonial population as
well as its reproduction. Yet such fears also drove home the inescapable
fact that there never was such a thing as ˜colonial sexuality™, a point
perhaps most glaringly apparent in its sheer malleability in political
discourse as in the pages of pornography. There was, in the face of
colonials in Britain communing with locals, no easily drawn boundary
between colonial and domestic sexuality, between British restraint and
colonial overindulgence. Always a construct of the imperial imagination,
it was nonetheless of potent, inevitable and endless consequence in
Britain as abroad, and it functioned as much to consolidate British de¬-
nitions of self and sexuality as to mark the alleged weaknesses of colonials.
If anxieties about sexuality within Britain could, in effect, be shifted to
colonial margins, explained away as racially and ethnically other and not
British, then the dangers of sexual desire might be better contained.

Simon Gikandi, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism (New York,
1996), 4ff.
Sexuality and empire 141
Colonial sexualities were a key component in British understandings,
and indeed misunderstandings, of the imperial world. Empire and
sexuality were linked, and inextricably, by the multiple ways in which
representations and de¬nitions of what it meant to be British, or to be
colonial, annexed sexuality. The critical distinctions anxiously drawn
between British and colonial sexualities, the ever-urgent need to enforce a
separation between these apparent and incommensurable opposites, made
sexuality inevitable and always central to the understandings as well as the
practices of empire. Ann Stoler™s multiple explorations of the ways in
which colonial regimes around sexuality (and other ˜undesirable™ beha-
viours) moulded the precepts of European bourgeois morality are central
to this discussion.60 Sexuality, always an effect of practices in time, always
a construct, is thus in the British arena an effect of empire, a category
built and shaped by imperial concerns, never stable, always in danger of
breaking out of its con¬nes, ever to be watched and guarded.
I began this exploration of the contours of colonial sexuality as they
played out in Britain with a discussion of the sexualised and gendered
nature of British immigration law. This is also a ¬tting theme on which
to end, for it seems to me that the politics of sexuality ¬nally cannot be
divorced from the debates about nationhood and citizenship which have
so centrally shaped immigration policy, certainly from the early twentieth
century on. The particular laws around immigration which have con-
cerned me here have de¬ned not only what kinds of sexuality (hetero-
sexual, monogamous, respectable) were allowable for immigrant women
but have also enshrined a vision of masculinity as heterosexual, wage-
earning and family-oriented. While public debate often focused on the
failure of immigrants to ful¬l this directive for their existence, we can see
in this vision a desire for and de¬nition of ideal citizenship within the
parameters of a particular vision of both British and colonial sexuality.
Immigration law, as it affected those from present or former British
colonies, privileged the stabilising and hopefully anglicising effects of
marriage, creating families whose focus would coincide with British
values, rendering them eligible for citizenship rather than mere subject-
hood. While early colonial immigration to Britain had eerily mirrored the
singularly male movement of colonising Britons out to imperial sites,
later policies once more echoed the Empire in seeking to encourage
stability through safe and respectable sexual liaisons, even while only

See, among others, her recent collection of essays, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and
the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley, 2002).
reluctantly permitting further colonial in¬‚ow. The change in imperial
temperament that saw domestication in the Empire and the dis-
couragement of promiscuity and mixed-race intimacy came ˜home™ in the
postwar period, a pattern strongly suggestive of a continued fear of the
colonial and his or her potentially disruptive values and behaviours.
The effort to create colonial families in the British image, and thus to
tame the rampant sexualities still associated with the colonial world,
suggests how powerfully the spectre of this construct of ˜colonial
sexuality™ ¬gured, even as British colonial power dissolved.
chapter seven

Religion and empire at home
Susan Thorne

Organised religion was one of the most powerful sources of inspiration
and sites of association in Victorian Britain. Few historians who work on
the nineteenth century today would object to G. Kitson Clark™s revisio-
nist insistence in 1962 that ˜in no other century, except the seventeenth
and perhaps the twelfth, did the claims of religion occupy so large a part
of the nation™s life, or did men speaking in the name of religion contrive
to exercise so much power™.1 While contemporaries were alarmed that
˜only™ half of Britain™s adult population attended church or chapel services
on a regular basis, this far exceeded the social catchments of all other
institutions in Victorian political culture. Moreover, most of the adults
who were not regular churchgoers had probably been exposed to orga-
nised religion as children. Virtually every working-class child attended
Britain™s massively popular Sunday Schools at one point or another.2
Victorian religious practice was, furthermore, a very public and political
praxis. In fact, Victorian public opinion was ˜educated from the pulpit™.3

G. S. R. Kitson Clark, The Making of Victorian England (Cambridge, 1962), 20“4. Feminist
historians have been particularly in¬‚uential in recent discussions of the social and political
coordinates of organised religion in the nineteenth century. For fascinating introductions to this now
burgeoning literature, see Joan Wallach Scott, ˜Women in The Making of the English Working Class™,
in Gender and the Politics of History (New York, 1988), Jacqueline deVries, ˜Rediscovering
Christianity after the Postmodern Turn™, Feminist Studies, 31 (1) (2005). See also Hugh McLeod,
Class and Religion in the Late Victorian City (Hamden, CT, 1974), Stephen Yeo, Religion and
Voluntary Organisations in Crisis (London, 1976), Deborah M. Valenze, Prophetic Sons and
Daughters: Female Preaching and Popular Religion in Industrial England (Princeton, 1985), Leonore
Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class,
1780“1850 (London, 1987), Theodore Koditschek, Class Formation and Urban Industrial Society
(Cambridge, 1990), Mark Smith, Religion in Industrial Society: Oldham and Saddleworth 1740“1865
(Oxford, 1994), Callum G. Brown, Religion and Society in Scotland Since 1707 (Edinburgh, 1997),
Joy Dixon, Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England (Baltimore, 2001), Pamela J.
Walker, Pulling the Devil™s Kingdom Down: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain (Berkeley, 2001).
Thomas Laqueur, Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working-Class Culture 1780“1850

(New Haven, 1976).
Olive Anderson, ˜Women Preachers in Mid-Victorian Britain: Some Re¬‚exions on Feminism,
Popular Religion and Social Change™, Historical Journal, 12 (3) (1969), 467.

This does not mean that religious Victorians spoke with a uni¬ed political
voice. To the contrary, theological and sectarian differences were among
the most important fault lines informing the nation™s party political
divide. While Nonconformists were nearly unanimous in their support for
the Liberal Party, at least before 1886, Anglicans were as ardent if not quite
as uni¬ed in their support for the Conservative Party.4 Religion, then, was
less a unitary in¬‚uence on Victorian politics than a terrain of struggle, one
of if not the most potent source of discord in Victorian political culture, a
key axis around which political difference at home was organised.
Religion was no less potent a force in Victorian political culture
because of the contingent and contested nature of its in¬‚uence. Religious
calculations pervaded Victorian political discussion: the repeal of the
Test and Corporation Acts, Catholic Emancipation and disestablishment
are but the most obvious examples. Even if not especially those who
advocated the separation of church and state, namely, Nonconformist
promoters of disestablishment, invoked religious not political justi¬ca-
tions. Less obvious but equally religious in their inspiration as well as
their support base were the abolition of slavery, the temperance crusade,
the opposition to compulsory vaccination, sanitation reform, the Eastern
Question, the campaigns against the Contagious Diseases Acts, com-
pulsory state education and Irish Home Rule.5
The Empire was no exception to this Victorian political rule. Victor-
ians at home learned much of what they knew about the colonies and
their inhabitants in church and chapel pews. In fact, the in¬‚uence of
missionary intelligence about the Empire at home was one of the dis-
tinguishing features of Victorian imperial culture. The nineteenth century
was the ˜great age™ of British Protestant missions; and most British mis-
sionaries worked in regions of the world that were or would soon fall
under Britain™s colonial jurisdiction. These missionaries, in turn, enjoyed
access to a more broadly based audience than any other colonial lobby. As
a result, the missionary movement would become a crucial conduit

Nonconformist chapels, in particular, provided the organisational channels of communication
between parliamentary representatives and their grass-roots supporters that distinguish the modern
political party from the early modern parliamentary faction. See J. R. Vincent, The Formation of the
Liberal Party, 1857“1868 (London, 1966).
G. I. T. Machin, Politics and the Churches in Great Britain, 1832“1868 (Oxford, 1977),

G. I. T. Machin, Politics and the Churches in Great Britain, 1869 to 1921 (Oxford, 1987), Brian
Harrison, Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England, 1815“1872 (London, 1971),
Patricia Hollis (ed.), Pressure from Without in Early Victorian England (London, 1974), D. W.
Bebbington, The Nonconformist Conscience: Chapel and Politics, 1870“1914 (London, 1982), Clare
Midgley, Women Against Slavery: The British Campaigns, 1780“1870 (London, 1992).
Religion and empire at home 145
through which political intelligence and cultural in¬‚uences as well as
people travelled between the British Empire and its Victorian home front.
The in¬‚uence of the Empire brought home by the foreign missionary
movement is the subject of this essay.
As the preceding references vibrantly attest, scholarly discussions of
Victorian political culture have been enriched by our recognition that
religion and politics were effectively inextricable in the Victorian imagin-
ary. It is all the more interesting that religion and empire, by contrast,
¬gure in imperial historiography as alternative categories of analysis.6 If
missionaries were complicit in imperialism, then their religion is close to
irrelevant.7 If, however, missionaries were truly motivated by their religious
beliefs, then imperial considerations are largely irrelevant to their story.8
The missionary position in and on the Empire was certainly complex.
Even when missionaries sought to ˜colonise consciousness™, they were
frequently frustrated by indigenous converts™ ability to adapt the
Christian faith to their own ends.9 Conversely, missionaries™ very pre-
sence in the colonies disrupted the cultural unity on which white
supremacy depended. Missionaries were a ˜dominated fraction of the
dominant class™, contemptuously dismissed as troublesome fanatics in
many quarters of the colonial community.10 Missionaries in their turn
struck back at other Europeans, colonial of¬cials as well as military,
commercial and settler interests, exposing exploitation and abuse of
colonised peoples alongside their fellow Europeans™ other sins.11
Andrew Porter, Religion Versus Empire?: British Protestant Missionaries and Overseas Expansion,
1700 “1914 (Manchester, 2004).
Stephen Neill, Colonialism and Christian Missions (New York, 1966) and Emmanuel Ayankanmi
Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1842“1914: A Political and Social Analysis
(London, 1966).
F. Stuart Piggin, Making Evangelical Missionaries, 1789“1858: The Social Background, Motives, and

the Training of British Protestant Missionaries to India (Abingdon, 1984), Brian Stanley, The Bible
and the Flag: Protestant Missions and British Imperialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
(Leicester, 1990).
Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1991“7),
Jeffrey Cox, Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818“1940 (Stanford,
John Comaroff, ˜Images of Empire, Contests of Conscience: Models of Colonial Domination in
South Africa™, in Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler (eds.), Tensions of Empire: Colonial
Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley, 1997), 163“97.
The global literature on British missions alone is far deeper than I can possibly gesture towards here,
but my personal favourites include Peter van der Veer, Imperial Encounters: Religion and Modernity
in India and Britain (Princeton, 2001), Comaroff and Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, Paul
Stuart Landau, The Realm of the Word: Language, Gender, and Christianity in a Southern African
Kingdom (Portsmouth, 1995), Elizabeth Elbourne, Blood Ground: Colonialism, Missions, and the
Contest for Christianity in the Cape Colony and Britain, 1799“1853 (Montreal, 2002), Cox, Imperial
Fault Lines, Emilia Viotti da Costa, Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood: The Demerara Slave Rebellion of
This complexity has been invoked as evidence that the history of
religious missions and the British Empire have been falsely conjoined.
How can missionaries be complicit in colonialism when they were among
the Empire™s most vocal critics? Even those missionaries who supported
imperialism could not have wielded much in¬‚uence over its course due
to their marginal position in the colonial community. Moreover, on those
relatively rare occasions that missionaries actively lobbied for colonial
intervention, their motivations were usually genuinely religious. The
kingdom they sought was of God and not man; missionaries sacri¬ced
wealth, health, their own lives as well as the lives, health or company of
beloved family members. Missionary motivations were primarily theo-
logical “ and not nationalist or racialist “ in nature.12
There is much truth in the above. Missionary motivation and sacri¬ce
are certainly inexplicable if abstracted from the theological inspiration of
the missionary vocation. However, theology itself is not a trans-historical
a priori. Human translations of the divine are always mediated by the
historical context of the believer. Theological interpretations of the Word
acquire “ or lose “ their purchase or appeal in circumstances not of
theologians™ choosing. The history of religious human beings can no
more be contained within theological parameters than it can be under-
stood outside them. And the Empire in¬‚uenced and was in¬‚uenced by
missionary belief and practice.
This chapter will therefore try to take theology seriously without taking
it at its word.13 It focuses on what Victorian Christians referred to as the
˜re¬‚ux bene¬t™ or in¬‚uence of foreign missions on British audiences at
home. It will argue that empire ¬gured prominently among the contexts
that gave birth to the modern missionary impulse that was so central to
the Victorian faith. Religious missions, in turn, played an important role
in bringing the Empire home. In the course of their fund-raising efforts,
missionary societies disseminated information about colonised peoples
and encouraged if not required re¬‚ection on the Empire™s raison d™etre,

1823 (New York, 1994), Mary Turner, Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave
Society, 1787“1834 (Urbana, 1982), Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the
English Imagination, 1830“1867 (Cambridge and Chicago, 2002).
See Porter, Religion Versus Empire?, Andrew Porter, ˜Religion, Missionary Enthusiasm, and
Empire™, 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), and Andrew Porter, ˜Religion
and Empire: British Expansion in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1780“1914™, Journal of Imperial
and Commonwealth History, 20 (3) (1992).
Barbara J. Fields, ˜Ideology and Race in American History™, in J. Morgan Kousser and James M.
McPherson (eds.), Region, Race, and Reconstruction (New York, 1982).
Religion and empire at home 147
the legitimacy of British rule. While missionary ˜friends of the native™
frequently condemned colonial practice, their very efforts along these
lines helped to sacralise an imperial ideal.
The connections between religion and Empire described below are of a
very different order than the easily discounted charge that British mis-
sionaries were being essentially or primarily imperialistic.14 On the one
hand, imperial developments constituted a crucial in¬‚uence on the
institutional form as well as the theological content of the religious beliefs
and practices so important on the Empire™s Victorian home front. The
missionary movement, in turn, insured the Empire™s vital importance in
the popular Victorian worldview. Missionaries™ widely publicised faith-
based criticisms of colonial policy incited vituperative responses in the
British media. Outside the already heavily populated corridors of evan-
gelicalism, missions helped to keep the Empire in public view. Victorian
periodicals, newspapers and novels responded to missionary critics of
empire by attacking missions in their turn as a destabilising in¬‚uence,
subversive of a colonial rule whose legitimacy was staunchly upheld. Such
conversations were far from the only such occasion on which empire was
discussed in British political culture. However, they were among the most
broadly consumed, thanks to the prominence of organised religion in
Victorian political culture. In terms of the numbers of Britons exposed to
missionary depictions of colonial life as well as the emotive power of the
associations incited among its enemies as well as friends, the missionary


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