Civilising SubjectsMetropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830 - 1867
Civilising Subjects
Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830 - 1867
Winner of the Morris D. Forkasch prize for the best book in British history 2002

Civilising Subjects argues that the empire was at the heart of nineteenth-century Englishness. English men and women in the mid-nineteenth century imagined themselves at the centre of a great empire: their mental and emotional maps encompassed 'Aborigines' in Australia, 'negroes' in Jamaica, 'coolies' in the Indies. This sense of the other provided boundaries and markers of difference: ways of knowing who was 'civilised' and who was 'savage'.

This fascinating book tells intertwined stories of a particular group of Englishmen and women who constructed themselves as colonisers. Hall then uses these studies as a means of exploring wider colonial and cultural issues. One story focuses on the Baptist missionaries in Jamaica and their efforts to build a new society in the wake of emancipation. Their hope was to make Afro-Jamaican men and women into people like themselves. Disillusionment followed as it emerged that the making of 'new selves' was not as simple as they had thought, and that black men and women had minds and cultural resources of their own. The second story tells the tale of 'the midland metropolis', Birmingham, and the ways in which its culture was infused with empire. Abolitionist enthusiasm dominated the town in the 1830s but by the 1860s the identity of 'friend of the negro' had been superseded by a harsher racial vocabulary. Birmingham's 'manly citizens' imagined the non-white subjects of empire as different kinds of men from themselves.

These two detailed studies, of Birmingham and Jamaica, are set within their wider context: the making of metropole and colony and of coloniser and colonised. The result is an absorbing study of the 'racing' of Englishness, which will be invaluable for students and scholars of British imperial and cultural history.
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  • April 2002
  • 576 pages
  • 161 x 240 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $79.95
  • 9780745618203
  • Paperback $39.95
  • 9780745618210
Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations.


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. Faultlines 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 1825-42:.

The Baptists in Birmingham.

'Friends of the Negro'.

The Utopian Years.

6. The Limits of Friendship: Abolitionism in Decline 1842-59:.

'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.




About the Author
Catherine Hall is Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College, London
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"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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