Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire

Creating an Imperial Commons

Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: December 2014

History > European History, World History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Combining insights from imperial studies and transnational book history, this provocative collection opens new vistas on both fields through ten accessible essays, each devoted to a single book. Contributors revisit well-known works associated with the British empire, including Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Thomas Macaulay's History of England, Charles Pearson's National Life and Character, and Robert Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys. They explore anticolonial texts in which authors such as C. L. R. James and Mohandas K. Gandhi chipped away at the foundations of imperial authority, and they introduce books that may be less familiar to students of empire. Taken together, the essays reveal the dynamics of what the editors call an "imperial commons," a lively, empire-wide print culture. They show that neither empire nor book were stable, self-evident constructs. Each helped to legitimize the other.

Contributors. Tony Ballantyne, Elleke Boehmer, Catherine Hall, Isabel Hofmeyr, Aaron Kamugisha, Marilyn Lake, Charlotte Macdonald, Derek Peterson, Mrinalini Sinha, Tridip Suhrud, André du Toit


"Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire: Creating an Imperial Commons will prove invaluable to scholars working on imperial print cultures, attempting to think globally in Victorian or American studies, or otherwise seeking to unfield British Empire studies." — Kellie D. Holzer, History: Reviews of New Books

"Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire . . . sketches an important new nexus for the analysis of print cultures and empires, tracing the ways in which print was embedded in imperial contexts and could inflect those contexts." — Robert J. Mayhew, Journal of Historical Geography

"Ten Books that Shaped the British Empire works well because the books reviewed in it are diverse in origin, subject, and intention, and because the essays are all of a very high quality; the essays work together to inform and stimulate their readers’ further thinking about the cultural workings of colonization and decolonization. It is a book well worth reading as a whole. Together, it becomes much more than the sum of its many parts." — Lisa Chilton, Canadian Journal of History

"All of the authors are finely attentive to the conditions under which texts were produced, including fascinating details of translation, book design, and local and global audiences. The editors and authors are to be commended on this often provocative and always insightful contribution to what they rightly term the communicative history of empire." — Jordanna Bailkin, Journal of Modern History

"The new critical history of empire and the freshly theorized transnational history of the book are together at last, each enhancing the other in a superb collection edited by the leading scholars in studies of the British world. Neither 'book' nor 'empire' is a straightforward idea. Focusing on ten influential works, the editors and contributors show how readers appropriated ideas as they circulate—often without regard for intellectual property—in periodical, pamphlet and volume forms." — Leslie Howsam, author of Past into Print: The Publishing of History in Britain 1850–1950

"Ten Books That Shaped the British Empire is a collection of engaging essays by an impressive group of contributors. The volume coheres around the political mobilization of print cultures by the British Empire's various constituent communities, and that coherence is reinforced by each essay's concentration on a single book. To my knowledge, nothing else remotely like this collection exists." — Dane Kennedy, author of The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Antoinette Burton is Professor of History and Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has written and edited many books, most recently, The First Anglo-Afghan Wars: A Reader, A Primer for Teaching World History: Ten Design Principles, and Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism, all published by Duke University Press.

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Visiting Distinguished Global Professor at New York University. Her prize-winning books include Gandhi's Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading, 'We Spend Our Years as a Tale That is Told': Oral Historical Storytelling in a South African Chiefdom, and The Portable Bunyan: A Transnational History of The Pilgrim's Progress.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. The Spine of Empire? Books and the Making of an Imperial Commons / Antoinette Burton and Isabel Hofmeyr 1

1. Remaking the Empire from Newgate: Wakefield's A Letter from Sydney / Tony Ballantyne 29

2. Jane Eyre at Home and Abroad / Charlotte MacDonald 50

3. Macaulay's History of England: A Book That Shaped Nation and Empire / Catherine Hall 71

4. "The Day Will Come": Charles H. Pearson's National Life and Character: A Forecast / Marilyn Lake 90

5. Victims of "British Justice"? A Century of Wrong as Anti-imperial Tract, Core Narrative of the Afrikaner "Nation," and Victim-Based Solidarity-Building Discourse / André Du Toit 112

6. The Text in the World, the World through the Text: Robert Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys / Elleke Boehmer 131

7. Hind Swaraj: Translating Sovereignty / Tridip Suhrud 153

8. Totaram Sanadhya's Fiji Mein Mere Ekkis Varsh: A History of Empire and Nation in a Minor Key / Mrinalini Sinha 168

9. C. L. R. James's The Black Jacobins and the Making of the Modern Atlantic World / Aaron Kamugisha 190

10. Ethnography and Cultural Innovation in Mau Mau Detention Camps: Gakaara wa Wanjau's Mihiriga ya Agikuyu / Derek R. Peterson 216

Bibliography 239

Contributors 261

Index 265
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5827-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5813-8
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