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Claude McKay’s experience and analysis of Britain
Winston James

Claude McKay ended his days hating England and the civilisation it represented. McKay journeyed from New York after an absence of more than seven years from his native Jamaica. He was the first Caribbean intellectual to describe what it meant to be black in Britain. His membership of the Workers' Socialist Federation (WSF) provided McKay with important insights into the politics of the metropolis. The International Socialist Club (ISC) had a two-fold impact upon McKay, one political, the other intellectual. In addition to the ISC and the 1917, McKay for a short time frequented a small club on Drury Lane specially established for non-white colonial and Afro-American soldiers. McKay described his time in London as ‘that most miserable of years’; an ‘ordeal’. His disappointment stems from his experience and from his expectations. He never complained of loneliness; he complained of hostility.

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
Open Access (free)
Edward M. Spiers

This chapter emphasizes on an unprecedented challenge posed by the South African War on the Victorian army. The war eventually involved the services of 448,435 British and colonial troops in a series of major battlefield engagements, sieges, relief operations and protracted counter-guerrilla campaigns. Soldiers were chosen from the different parts of the United Kingdom as they served in distinguished local regiments and other arms, and came from localities with strong military connections, ensuring coverage of their exploits in the provincial press. The Boers launched their invasions of Natal and Cape Colony and began the investment of the strategic border towns of Mafeking and Kimberley when the war began on 11 October 1899. The 2/Gordons, 1/Gloucesters and 1/Devonshires were among the reinforcements sent from India and already deployed in Natal. The Scots and west country units would serve in the 47,000-man army corps sent from Britain under the command of Sir Redvers Buller. British soldiers had to adapt to the rigors of campaigning in South African conditions even before they faced the new realities of warfare.

in The Victorian soldier in Africa
Open Access (free)
Edward M. Spiers

British governments retained only a small army of occupation in Egypt and withdrew forces from the southern frontier, the defense of which was left increasingly to the Egyptian Army, after the failure of the Gordon relief expedition. The latter was reformed and trained by a cadre of British officers and noncommissioned officers (NCO) and was periodically supported by British units, notably a squadron of the 20th Hussars at the battle of Toski and in engagements with Osman Digna's forces near Suakin. As most of the Gordon relief expedition began to depart, Private Francis Ferguson reconciled himself to a long tour of duty in Egypt. After returning to Wadi Halfa, where Ferguson remained until May 1886, he feared the risks of illness above anything else whenever the prospect of frontier service recurred. Ferguson liked the barracks at Abbassiyeh, some 3 miles from Cairo, describing the rooms as large or lofty, each capable of holding over fifty bed cots, also describing them as cool considering the climate.

in The Victorian soldier in Africa
Open Access (free)
John Marriott

The accumulation of empirical material illustrates a determined attempt to know the Indian landscape and village life in order better to exercise economic and political authority. This chapter highlights the more systematic, centralized, totalizing and abstract bodies of knowledge based on fundamental discourses of race, caste and criminality. Until the late eighteenth century orientalist interests in ancient language and culture had prevailed. With the expansion of British control and the attendant demands for an efficient and informed administrative system, however, new types of knowledge were necessary. Equally, and to an extent autonomously of imperial exigencies, the survey represented a new mode of observation akin to that taking place in the metropolitan context. There were continuities with previous knowledge producing processes, but in surveys the accumulation and commodification of observable materials as a scientific enterprise to know India was quite novel.

in The other empire
Open Access (free)
Better ‘the Hottentot at the hustings’ than ‘the Hottentot in the wilds with his gun on his shoulder’
Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips, and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the expansion of the British Empire and early political developments in the British settler colonies in South Africa from the late 1830s to around 1870. The British took over the Cape Colony from the Dutch by a combination of military conquest and formal cession by treaty; the colonial annexations of Xhosa land were similarly based on both military conquest and cession by treaties following the various frontier wars. By the 1830s, the British authorities who had taken over the Cape from the Dutch found themselves trying to govern a society that was a complex mixture of ethnic populations, including White settlers, Khoisan, the Xhosa and other African groups. The British Government granted representative government to both the British colonies in South Africa, Cape and Natal, in the 1850s. A comparison of the minority rule of British settlers in the settler colonies of Natal and Cape, and a discussion of the inclusion of colonists and Indigenous people on the basis of property franchise in representative governments, are also presented.

in Equal subjects, unequal rights
Open Access (free)
Saving the White voters from being ‘utterly swamped’
Julie Evans, Patricia Grimshaw, David Philips, and Shurlee Swain

This chapter focuses on the voting rights and political outcomes of the intensified appropriation of Indigenous lands by British settler colonists in South Africa from the 1870s to 1910. By the 1870s, important economic and political developments in South Africa prompted Britain to act in consolidating its interests throughout the Southern African region. These developments, which included the ‘mineral revolution’ through the discovery of diamond fields and gold fields, and Lord Carnarvon's federation scheme of 1870, together reshaped the political geography of South Africa within three decades. By the end of the nineteenth century, the separate African polities had almost entirely disappeared under some form of European colonial jurisdiction, and Britain was also directly threatening the independence of the two Boer republics. The chapter summarizes the political developments related to the voting rights of people, including settlers and Indigenous in the British settler colonies of Natal and Cape Colony.

in Equal subjects, unequal rights
The BBC’s Caribbean Voices
Glyne Griffith

The story of Caribbean Voices shows that conservative colonial attitudes could be as prevalent at the periphery as at the imperial centre, and conversely, that hostility toward the myopic authority of colonial culture could be active among those of privilege and influence within the imperial centre. The programme that evolved into Caribbean Voices was initially conceived by the Jamaican journalist and poet, Una Marson. The very centrality of Caribbean Voices—the fact that it was the only such programme broadcast from London—inevitably meant it became a hostage to fortune, each enthusiastic listener convinced of its partiality. Caribbean Voices is important in creating a new West Indian literature. It became the medium for a new Caribbean literature. Henry Swanzy, and the programme he nurtured, allowed many West Indians both in Britain and in the Caribbean, to become intellectuals and artists.

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
Harold Moody and the League of Coloured Peoples
David Killingray

This chapter explores the influences that shaped Harold Moody's thinking and behaviour. It also describes how those beliefs were applied throughout his active life in countering racial prejudice and promoting the interests of black peoples. Moody's path to recognising his black and African-descended identity was a slow one, but it was firmly forged by his struggle in confronting British racism. The most decisive influence in Moody's life was his conversion to Christianity. Christian doctrine underwrote Moody's ideas of humanity and race. Although the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP) was a multi-racial body, Moody's intention was that it should be led solely by black people. He regarded the LCP as a Christian organisation. The LCP, along with other organisations, kept the question of race relations prominently before British politicians. After Moody died in 1947, the LCP had lost its way.

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
Edward M. Spiers

This chapter focuses on the Bechuanaland campaign, demonstrating the degree of British adaptation since the Anglo-Boer War of 1881. The expedition was occasioned by Boer freebooters exploiting the rivalry among Bantu clans along the border from Vryburg to Mafeking and proclaiming the two semi-independent republics of Goshen and Stellaland in Bantu territory. The Gladstone Government regarded these incursions as breaches of the London Convention (1884), and resolved to protect the Bantu chiefs and retain control of the trade route from Cape Colony to Central Africa. Warren was required to evict the Goshenites from Bechuanaland and re-establish order. The first units of regulars and volunteers reached Cape Town on 19 December 1884 and left by train the same day for the Orange River, disembarking near Hope Town. Warren had sufficient mule-carts, wagons and drivers to march towards the Vaal River, where a forward base was established at Barkly West by 13 January 1885.

in The Victorian soldier in Africa
Open Access (free)
Feminism, anti-colonialism and a forgotten fight for freedom
Alison Donnell

This chapter provides a reading of Una Marson's intellectual positions as articulated in her journalism and speeches, and explores to what extent she was able to use her travelling between London and Kingston to reconfigure her political understanding and cultural projects in each location through an understanding of the other. It then sets Marson's work as influential and radical in both a British and a West Indian context, and addresses the ways in which her life in Britain impacted upon her ideas relating to gender politics, cultural identity, nationalism and political organisation. Marson's honesty in registering her own reticence and sense of powerlessness in Britain helps the appreciation of the kinds of subtle and direct oppression that racism generates. Her substantial contribution stems from her awareness of the collocation of African subjects and women within the political matrix of British colonialism.

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain