Liberalism, Imperialism, and the Historical Imagination: Nineteenth-Century Visions of a Greater Britain

Liberalism, Imperialism, and the Historical Imagination: Nineteenth-Century Visions of a Greater Britain

Theodore Koditschek

Language: English

Pages: 367

ISBN: 1107638275

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book examines the ways in which imperial agendas informed the writing of history in nineteenth-century Britain and how historical writing transformed imperial agendas. Using the published writings and personal papers of Walter Scott, J. A. Froude, James Mill, Rammohun Roy, T. B. Macaulay, E. A. Freeman, W. E. Gladstone, and J. R. Seeley among others, Theodore Koditschek sheds new light on the role of the historical imagination in the establishment and legitimation of liberal imperialism. He shows how both imperialists and the imperialized were drawn to reflect back on Empire's past as a result of the need to construct a modern, multi-national British imperial identity for a more economically expansive and enlightened present. By tracing the imperial lives and historical works of these pivotal figures, Theodore Koditschek illuminates the ways in which discourse altered practice, and vice versa, as well as how the history of Empire was continuously written and re-written.

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1660, the Catholic priests and old aristocrats trickled back in. In 1691, once again, Ireland had to be re-conquered, but within a few years, she reverted back to her habitual ways. The officially Protestant new establishment was riddled with lethargy and corruption, which allowed Catholicism to creep back in and fostered a disrespect for order and law. Overtaxed and excluded from the benefits of imperial commerce, eighteenth-century Ireland remained demoralized and impoverished while England and

with which we are endowed, our romantic, though unfortunate history, so full of disaster yet so full of glory; all these, and other causes, have made us the proudest people on earth.75 Burke’s defense of the Irish on the basis of their racial qualities, as well as Prendergast’s assertion of their eternal victimhood, shows just how problematic liberal discourse had become by the 1870s. Absent Macaulay’s confident progress narrative, could it offer nothing assertive with which to counter Froude?

events, Jeanie is Scott’s truest borderer – the only one who ventures far enough south to experience English society fully, and thus to discern the full meaning of union (beyond politics or economics) on a moral plane.73 As she penetrates southward from the heart of Midlothian to the heart of England, Jeanie’s horizons are correspondingly enlarged. She learns to appreciate the English landscape, English villages, and English agriculture. She finds the language barrier less disabling than she had

constant recourse to the language of real or symbolic kinship – marriage, brotherhood, cousinship, wardship, or paternity – that could either explain how those divided by the past could be united in future, or how those who subsisted as long-lost relations could use historical narratives to rediscover their consanguinity. Second, the novels we have examined all trace the complex relationship between the trajectory of capitalist development and the romances of political, or cultural, unity.

intellectuals tended to be more ambivalent about Macaulay’s effects. The early Indian nationalist Rajnarian Bose had been raised to admire Macaulay and continued to appreciate him even after his attitudes towards the Raj changed. The great Bengali novelist Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay was perfectly willing to countenance Macaulay’s writings, so long as his Indian essays were placed in 98 99 John Holroyd, George Robertson of Melbourne: 1825–1898, Pioneer Bookseller and Publisher (Melbourne,

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