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An Imperial People?

Questions to prepare for seminar:

  1. To what extent was late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain characterised by popular imperialism?
  2. What insight on the place of Empire in British life emerges from analysis of Empire Marketing Board posters?
  3. Did the importance of Empire to the British people decline or increase between 1900 and 1940?
  4. Did working class people in Britain ‘benefit’ from Empire?

 Core Reading:


 Further Reading:

  • There are plenty of surveys of imperial history. For instance: B. Porter, The Lion’s Share: A Short History of British Imperialism 1850-1983 (1984); P. Cain & A. Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion 1688-1914 and British Imperialism: Crisis and Deconstruction 1914-90 (1993), W.R. Louis (ed.), The Oxford History of the British Empire (1999).
  • In recent years, there have been calls for a ‘New British History’ that recognises the imperial experience as integral to the life of the nation: P.J. Marshall, ‘Imperial Britain’, in Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 23 (1995); Raphael Samuel, 'Empire Stories: The Imperial and the Domestic', in Island Stories (1998), pp. 74-100; Denis Judd, 'Britain: Land Beyond Hope and Glory?, History Today (April, 1999), 18-24. For an argument about the parallelism of a hierarchical British class system and the hierarchialism of Empire: David Cannadine, Ornamentalism (2001). For a review of the New Imperial History: Richard Price, ‘One Big Thing: Britain, Its Empire, and Imperial Culture’, Journal of British Studies, 45 (2006), 602-27.
  • On feelings of Britishness in other parts of the Empire: Saul Dubow, ‘How British was the British World? The Case of South Africa’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 37 (2009), 1-27; Lynn Hollen Lees, ‘Being British in Malaya, 1890-1940’, Journal of British Studies, 48 (2009), 76-101; Elizabeth Buettner, Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India (2004); Robert Bickers (ed.), Settlers and Expatriates: Britons over the Seas (2010)
  • On citizenship and Empire: Keith McClelland and Sonya Rose, ‘Citizenship and Empire’ in C. Hall and Sonya Rose (eds.), At Home with the Empire (2006), 275-97.
  • John Mackenzie has led the way in attempting to demonstrate the influence of imperialism within popular culture: John Mackenzie (ed.), Imperialism and Popular Culture (1981); John Mackenzie, Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion (1984). See also: John Springhall, Youth, Empire and Society: British Youth Movements, 1883-1940 (1976); J.A. Mangan, The Cultural Bond: Sport, Empire and Society (1992). For commentary on this work dealing with popular imperialism: Bernard Porter, ‘Popular Imperialism: Broadening the Context’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 39 (2011), 833-45
  • On Empire Day: Jim English, ‘Empire Day in Britain, 1904-1958’, Historical Journal (2006), 49, 247-76.
  • On imperialism within the labour movement: Henry Pelling, ‘British Labour and British Imperialism’, in Henry Pelling, Popular Politics and Society in Late Victorian Britain (1979), pp. 82-100; Stephen Howe, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918-1964 (Oxford, 1993);Sarathi Gupta, Imperialism and the British Labour Movement, 1914-1964 (London, 1975).
  • Questioning popular imperialism: Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society and Culture in Britain (2006)
  • On anti-imperialism: Sarah Britton, ‘”Come and See the Empire by the All Red Route”: Anti-Imperialism and Exhibitions in Interwar Britain’, History Workshop Journal, 69 (2010), 68-89.
  • For the marketing of Empire in interwar Britain: S. Constantine, Buy and Build: The Advertising Posters of the Empire Marketing Board (1986).
  • On the relationship to free trade economics and the pressure to introduce trade tariffs that would support the bonds of Empire: Frank Trentmann, Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption and Civil Society in Modern Britain (2008).
  • For the turn-of-the-century vision of a nation which could embrace Empire - a ‘Greater Britain’: J.R. Seeley, The Expansion of England (1883). And see work on Joseph Chamberlain, the debate over tariff reform and the ‘crisis of conservatism’ of this era: E.H.H. Green, The Crisis of Conservatism, 1880-1914 (1994); E.H.H. Green, ‘Radical Conservatism: the Electoral Genesis of Tariff Reform’, Historical Journal, 26 (1985); G. Searle, 'Critics of Edwardian Society: The Case of the Radical Right', in A. O'Day (ed.), The Edwardian Age: Conflict and Stability, 1900-1914 (1979).
  • For the importance of Empire in expanding women’s professional roles and influence, see Barbara Bush, ‘“Britain’s Conscience in Africa”: White Women, Race and Imperial Politics in Inter-War Britain’, in Claire Midgley (Ed.), Gender and Imperialism (Manchester, 1997).
  • On the economics of British imperialism and relationship to ‘gentlemanly capitalism’: Peter Cain and A. J. Hopkins, British Imperialism: Crisis and Deconstruction, 1914-1990 (1993) and British Imperialism, 1688-2000 (2002).
  • On the South African (Boer) War: Andrew Thompson and David Omissi (eds.), Impact of the South African War (esp Part II The British Impact) (2001) – ebook; Steve Attridge, Nationalism, Imperialism, and Identity in Late Victorian Culture: Civil and Military Worlds (2003); Paul Readman, ‘The Conservative Party, Patriotism, and British Politics: The Case of the General Election of 1900’, Journal of British Studies, 40 (2001), 107-45; and for an attempt to assess the impact of imperialism on the British working-class electorate at the start of the century: R. Price, An Imperial War and the British Working Class (1972). More generally: Andrew Thompson, ‘The Language of Imperialism and the Meaning of Empire: Imperial Discourse in British Politics, 1895-1914’, Journal of British Studies, 36 (1997), 147-77.
  • Looking forward to popular imperialism at the end of Empire: Stuart Ward (ed.), British Culture and the End of Empire (2001)