Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915

Overview

In this study of British middle-class feminism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Antoinette Burton explores an important but neglected historical dimension of the relationship between feminism and imperialism. Demonstrating how feminists in the United Kingdom appropriated imperialistic ideology and rhetoric to justify their own right to equality, she reveals a variety of feminisms grounded in notions of moral and racial superiority. According to Burton, Victorian and Edwardian feminists such ...

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Overview

In this study of British middle-class feminism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Antoinette Burton explores an important but neglected historical dimension of the relationship between feminism and imperialism. Demonstrating how feminists in the United Kingdom appropriated imperialistic ideology and rhetoric to justify their own right to equality, she reveals a variety of feminisms grounded in notions of moral and racial superiority. According to Burton, Victorian and Edwardian feminists such as Josephine Butler, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and Mary Carpenter believed that the native women of colonial India constituted a special 'white woman's burden.' Although there were a number of prominent Indian women in Britain as well as in India working toward some of the same goals of equality, British feminists relied on images of an enslaved and primitive 'Oriental womanhood' in need of liberation at the hands of their emancipated British 'sisters.' Burton argues that this unquestioning acceptance of Britain's imperial status and of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority created a set of imperial feminist ideologies, the legacy of which must be recognized and understood by contemporary feminists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A provocative and interesting example of historical reconstruction.

Choice

This is a serious contribution to feminist history and the history of feminism.

Journal of Modern History

Burton's scrupulous study . . . has exceeded my hopes for this project.

Nineteenth-Century Prose

An impressive work.

Philippa Levine, University of Southern California

A major reinterpretation.

Barbara N. Ramusack, University of Cincinnati

Booknews
Burton (women's studies, Johns Hopkins U.) demonstrates how feminists in the UK appropriated imperial ideology and rhetoric to justify their own right to equality and developed a variety of feminisms grounded in notions of moral and racial superiority. She discusses feminist periodicals and imperial identity, Josephine Butler and the Indian campaign, British imperial suffrage, and the ideology of global sisterhood. Paper edition (unseen), $16.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807844717
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/18/1994
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 318
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Antoinette Burton is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Politics of Recovery: Historicizing Imperial Feminism, 1865-1915 1
2 Woman in the Nation: Feminism, Race, and Empire in the "National" Culture 33
3 Female Emancipation and the Other Woman 63
4 Reading Indian Women: Feminist Periodicals and Imperial Identity 97
5 The White Woman's Burden: Josephine Butler and the Indian Campaign, 1886-1915 127
6 A Girdle round the Earth: British Imperial Suffrage and the Ideology of Global Sisterhood 171
7 Representation, Empire, and Feminist History 207
Notes 213
Bibliography 271
Index 295
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2004

    Brilliant!

    This is simply put, a great work of history. In the tradition of the best historical works, Burton takes a subject that we thought we knew about (women in this case) and turns it on its ear and forces us to reassess our preconceived notions. A model not only of women's history, but of political history as well. It highlights the absolute centrality of gender in the imperial enterprise and the centrality of the empire in the metropolitan political sphere. This book will be read for as long the empire has a history.

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