Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830-1867 / Edition 1

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How did the English get to be English? In Civilising Subjects, Catherine Hall argues that the idea of empire was at the heart of mid-nineteenth-century British self-imagining, with peoples such as the "Aborigines" in Australia and the "negroes" in Jamaica serving as markers of difference separating "civilised" English from "savage" others.

Hall uses the stories of two groups of Englishmen and -women to explore British self-constructions both in the colonies and at home. In Jamaica, a group of Baptist missionaries hoped to make African-Jamaicans into people like themselves, only to be disappointed when the project proved neither simple nor congenial to the black men and women for whom they hoped to fashion new selves. And in Birmingham, abolitionist enthusiasm dominated the city in the 1830s, but by the 1860s, a harsher racial vocabulary reflected a new perception of the nonwhite subjects of empire as different kinds of men from the "manly citizens" of Birmingham.

This absorbing and detailed study of the "racing" of Englishness will be invaluable for students and scholars of imperial and cultural history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Civilising Subjects provides a compelling account of the ways in which the various imperial projects of the nineteenth century shaped domestic political, evangelical, and cultural agendas. This detailed study of Victorian empire and English national culture is sure to become the definitive study of the decade and beyond." Kathleen Wilson, author of The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism in England, 1715-1785

"Civilising Subjects does for colonial history what E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class did for social history. It triumphantly achieves what many have hoped to do: show how empire impacted on metropolis while the home culture shaped colonial development. This is a work of great scholarship, but also of passion and imagination." Roy Porter, author of The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment

'This is a brilliant piece of detective work, uncovering half-forgotten debates and hidden connections linking England and Jamaica in the first half of the Victorian era...The argument that all collective identities are formed through drawing up boundaries between "us" and inferior "others" has become a cliche...Hall is the first historian to give a really convincing account of how that happened. Her story also illuminates how West Indians, and their descendents in Britian, came to occupy such an ambivalent "inside-outsider" place in that picture. Civilising Subjects is not just important for historians of Britain and empire. Anyone concerned with issues of race, citizenship and identity in Britiain today can learn a great deal from it.' The Independent

"This book has the fine detail and rich colours of a Vermeer painting." Denis Judd, Historian, BBC History Magazine

"...a landmark text, bringing national and imperial history into conjunction and providing a significant contribution to the new cultural history. Civilising Subjects desrves to be widely read." Michael Pickering, Journal of Contemporary European Studies

"Civilising Subjects is a tour de force and promises to deepen our understanding of how Empire rebounded back on Britain."
Social History

"What a book! What a breeze of fresh air in British colonial history! Let there be no doubt about it: this book is cultural history at its best and most advanced."
Journal for the Study of British Cultures

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226313351
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 556
  • Sales rank: 1,304,676
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Hall is a professor of history at University College, London. She is the editor of Cultures of Empire: A Reader and coauthor of Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 and Defining the Victorian Nation: Class, Race, Gender and the Reform Act of 1867.
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Table of Contents

List of maps and illustrations
Cast of Characters
Prologue: The Making of an Imperial Man
New Zealand
St Vincent and Antigua
Part I - Colony and Metropole
Mapping Jamaica: The Pre-emancipation World in the Metropolitan Mind
1. The Missionary Dream 1820-1842
The Baptist Missionary Society and the missionary project
Missionaries and planters
The war of representation
The constitution of the new black subject
The free villages
2. Fault-lines in the Family of Man 1842-1845
Native agency and the Africa mission
The Baptist family
Brother Knibb
3. 'A Jamaica of the Mind' 1820-1854
Phillippo's Jamaica
'A place of gloomy darkness'
4. Missionary Men and Morant Bay 1859-1866
Anthony Trollope and Mr. Secretary Underhill
The trials of life
Morant Bay and after
Part II - Metropolis, Colony and Empire
Mapping the Midland Metropolis
5. The 'Friends of the Negro': Baptists and Abolitionists 1825-1842
The Baptists in Birmingham and the missionary public
Knowing 'the heathen'
Birmingham's 'Friends of the Negro'
The utopian years
6. The Limits of Friendship: Abolitionism in Decline 1842-1859
'A population intellectually at zero'
Carlyle's occasion
George Dawson and the politics of race and nationalism
Troubles for the missionary public
7. Town, Nation and Empire 1859-1867
New times
Morant Bay
Birmingham men
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