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Feminism and Imperialism

Questions to ponder whilst you read:

  • To what extent did the imperial context shape feminism in Britain?
  • Was first wave feminism concerned only with the rights of white women?
  • Could British feminism be said to have ‘benefitted’ from imperialism?
  • How did British women interact with Indian women?


Core Reading

A. Burton, Burdens of History. British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915 (1994) ebook

C. Midgley, ‘Anti-Slavery and the Roots of “Imperial Feminism”’, in C. Midgley (ed.), Gender and Imperialism (1998), pp.161-179 digitised

Further Reading

Section B ‘Women, Politics and Empire’, in A. Burton (ed.), Politics and Empire in Victorian Britain

‘Introduction’ plus choose 2 readings, in P. Tuson (ed.) The Queen’s Daughters: An Anthology of Victorian Feminist Writing on India (1995)

Frances Swiney, Our Indian Sisters (1914) [available as part of digitised MRC documents]

Leaflet Advertising the Indian Female Evangelist (1880) [available as part of digitised MRC documents]


A. McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (1995) [esp. Introduction]

C. Midgley, ‘Can Women’s Be Missionaries? Envisioning Female Agency in the Early Nineteenth-Century British Empire’, Journal of British Studies 45:2 (2006), 335-358

C. Midgley, Feminism and Empire. Women Activists in Imperial Britain, 1790-1865 (London ad New York: Routledge, 2007)

C. Midgley, ‘From Supporting Missions to Petitioning Parliament: British Women and the Evangelical Campaign against Sati in India, 1813-30’, in K. Gleadle and S. Richardson (eds.), Women in British Politics 1760-1860. The Power of the Petticoat (2000), pp.74-92

G. Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in C. Nelson and L. Grossberg, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (1988) [Also widely available online if you google. Don’t worry if you find this tough – it is – but also worth it as a significant theoretical piece which underpins much of the historical writing on this subject.]

J. De Groot, ‘Feminism in Another Language: Learning from Feminist Histories of Iran and/or from Histories of Iranian ‘Feminism’ Since 1830’, in Women: A Cultural Review Special Issue: Rethinking the History of Feminism 21:3 (2010), 251-265

C. Bressey, ‘Victorian Anti-Racism and Feminism in Britain’, Women: A Cultural Review Special Issue: Rethinking the History of Feminism 21:3 (2010), 279-291.

P. Anagol, ‘Indian Christian Women and Indigenous Feminism c.1850-c.1920’, in K. Offen (ed.), Globalising Feminisms 1789-1945 (2010), pp.96-110

Catherine Hall, ‘Introduction’ to Civilising Subjects, in S. Morgan (ed.), The Feminist History Reader, pp.339-359