Civilising Subjects argues that the empire was at the heart of Catherine Hall is Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College. Catherine Hall’s Civilising Subjects begins with a detailed explanation of her own investment in the midth-century symbiosis between. Catherine Hall’s Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English. Imagination, (Cambridge: Polity Press, ) is an extremely important.

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History, ColonialismPostcolonialism. More catherkne said now about the modernising advantages the empires brought, and about the security and order they maintained. There is far less tolerance for the disorder and tyranny that people like Nkrumah, Lumumba and Nasser instigated in the name of anti-colonialism.

Edward Said reviews ‘Civilising Subjects’ by Catherine Hall · LRB 20 March

A crucial tactic of this revisionism is to read present-day American imperial power as enlightened and even altruistic, and to project that enlightenment back into the past. I am being impressionistic, of course. Then there are the many American intellectuals who followed Norman Podhoretz from the ranks of the liberal Left into reactionary self-bowdlerisation. For them American power is sacrosanct. In the s V.

Naipaul began, disquietingly, to systematise the revisionist view of empire.

Civilising Subjects

A disciple and wilful misreader of Conrad, he gave Third Worldism, as it came to be known in France and elsewhere, a bad name. Not surprisingly, the Iranian Revolution and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie consolidated anti-anti-colonial feeling in the s and s, making it easy to see the Taliban as a natural consequence of native intransigence and misplaced Western liberalism.

The soft-core version included Raj revivalism, the cult of Merchant Ivory and interminable documentaries, coffee-table books, fashion accessories.

They were regarded as isolated episodes, and appear not to have been absorbed into the new structure of feeling about empire. In effect, the past was over, and the time had come for non-white people to own up to their self-inflicted wounds.

This was the Naipaulian injunction which was repeated in many parts of the First and Third Worlds, where the new post-Soviet realities signalled not only the end of history but the end of thinking about history in a consequential way.

Over time the polemical venom of many former left-leaning, pro-liberationist, Third Worldist intellectuals increased, nowhere more sensationally than in France and the United States. Legions of writers who had supported Algerian and Vietnamese resistance denounced their early befuddlement and romanticism.

The growing presence in Europe and North America of wave after wave of non-white immigrants added considerable animus to the tirades. The events of 11 September tipped the scales definitively. Oddly, from the s, this process coincided with the rise of post-colonial studies in British and American universities.

Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830 – 1867

An Indian or Jamaican woman reading Kim or Jane Eyre was able to bring to light the usually unstated colonial and male-dominated ideological assumptions behind the form of the novel itself. Many of us who grew up in the colonial era were struck by the fact that even though a hard and fast line separated coloniser from colonised in matters of rule and authority a native could never aspire to the condition of the white manthe experiences of ruler and ruled were not so easily disentangled.

On both sides of the imperial divide men and women shared experiences — though differently inflected experiences — through education, civic life, memory, war.

Despite the colonial effort to make Algeria French, and the decolonising battle to remake Algeria after into an entirely Arab country with no links to its French past, the two histories are inseparable; one could not be written without taking the other into account.

It would be wrong to maintain that only an African could write the history of Africa, or only a Muslim the history of Islam, or a woman that of women. Afrocentrism, I believe, is as flawed as Eurocentrism; and although I also believe that the rhetoric of blame is neither intellectually nor morally sufficient, when Naipaul was recently quoted as being content that the Indians no longer blame the British for everything it seemed to me a typically superficial quip that hides the subjefts immense intellectual labour that is still required to understand how much the British really were responsible for.


Who decides when and if the influence of imperialism ended? There seems to be no end to the aftermath of empire in the lives of the peoples most immediately affected by Britain, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Russia and, now, the United States.

Why is it acceptable to discuss reparations for the victims of genocide in some instances but not in others? Should Africans in the Caribbean and the Americas be ignored when they continue to draw attention to the ravages of colonial slavery a century and a half after it supposedly ended?

Despite the fact that there was never a total barrier separating one catheerine experience from the other, it would be wrong to ignore the original and, I would say, enabling rift between black and white, between imperial authority and natives, that persisted during the entire period of classical imperialism.

The problem, then, is to keep in hll two ideas that are in many ways antithetical — the fact of the imperial divide, on the one hand, and the notion of shared experiences, on the other — without diminishing the force of either: When it comes to understanding, say, Great Expectations or Les Troyensone has to keep in view the facts of empire without at the same time losing sight of the facts of great literature or music.

Kim is a sympathetic and profound work about India, but it is informed by the imperial vision just the same. And to write imperial history from the standpoint of the coloniser as victim as Linda Colley does in Captivesor to turn the whole business into a peripheral episode in the history of the eccentricities of the British upper classes as David Cannadine does civilislng Ornamentalismis unhelpful.

In Castes of Mind: Some of the excesses of post-colonial writing — pomposity, jargon, self-indulgence — are avoidable. During his last years Pierre Bourdieu railed against American academic multiculturalism. Social Suffering in Contemporary Societydepended in part on complex post-imperial investigations that few of us can hope to emulate, ciivlising also on his personal engagement with the work he was doing.

During her school years, after her father had left his parish to become a roving minister, she came into contact with the larger Baptist community. She visited Jamaica with him, and there saw the effects of Baptist missionary activity and liberal reform. My reasons for choosing to work on Jamaica are perhaps self-evident by now: It was the largest island in the British Caribbean and the one producing the most wealth for Britain in the 18th century.

Jamaicans were to re-emerge as privileged objects of concern in Cqtherine in the hzll period, but in a very different context. Now the Jamaicans were those who subjechs left their island to come to Britain between and the s, who had settled, had children and claimed full national belonging.

In so doing they once again put Zubjects at the heart of the metropolitan frame: But this was a repetition with a difference. England was no longer at the heart of a great empire, and its domestic population was visibly diverse.

One historical power configuration, the colonial, had been displaced by another, the post-colonial. It was this new configuration with its repetition, the same but different, which made possible both the return to the past and a rewriting of connected histories. Her real achievement, though, is her insistence on the dynamic self-making of empire, an unending enterprise which had to be constantly worked on, argued over and affirmed — as much through its personalities subjectd in discourse.


There are abolitionists, cathdrine, political leaders Eyre, Joseph Sturge, William Morgan and John Angell James ; major cultural figures such as Anthony Trollope, Thomas Carlyle and John Stuart Mill, caherine of whom took part in the public debate about the events in Jamaica; as well as officers, scribes, landowners, creolised whites, metropolitan intellectuals.

Like her Baptist missionaries, they all became identified with their interpretation of the cause of their mission: Civilising Subjects tells a compelling story about the various generations of Baptist missionaries in Jamaica and carefully plots the changes in their attitudes towards their black parishioners, both slaves and freedmen, uncovering in the process contradictions determined by the irreducible everyday realities of imperial rule. Were black people really like white people? Or were they, as the pro-slavery lobby believed, fundamentally different?

Anxieties and ambivalences clustered around this issue: Hall sees cycles and patterns in the attitudes she examines: What was good for reform-minded England was unsuitable in Jamaica.

Jamaica was imagined as immobile without British help, its life dependent on that input. Hall dexterously handles polarities of ideology and thought — between appalling racists, such as Carlyle and Robert Knox, and enlightened liberals, such as Mill and James Mursell Phillippo — but also manages to connect these bodies of thought to the changing circumstances of location, climate, daily life and general social history.

Partly because the reader has been primed early on that what Hall is describing is an archaeology of herself as a woman, the wife of a Jamaican-British intellectual, the child of Nonconformism and radical Dissenting politics, nearly everything in this long book is charged with the existential urgency of lived lives, hard-won insights, embattled causes and epochal transformations.

Great meetings are re-enacted and we are the engaged and informed spectators of the clash between different personalities and styles of oratory.

This is history-writing that is dialectical in the best sense. Hall shows that conquest, slavery and, above all, emancipation are transacted by individuals engaged in contradictory processes determined by a range of institutions: And while she plainly admires the effort of idealistic men and women trying to help others, she also knows that, in the end, imperial conquest is anything but melioristic in its course.

What her book makes plain is that, while empire was never straightforward, and entailed suffering on all sides, it required an abiding consent among its English adherents. And that consent was always based on the subordination of the native and the colony to the English, individually and collectively.

New Imperial History | Journal of Victorian Culture | Oxford Academic

Linda Colley shows empire as bumblingly pathetic in its earlier phases: Hall takes a stricter line, showing that empire is always on top of what it rules, no matter how much the enterprise appears to falter or fray. Common Skies, Divided Horizons Much of what she says about missionary women and their domestic background is well elucidated in White, Male and Middle Classin many ways a metropolitan companion to Civilising Subjects.

What does one do about the representation of undocumented experiences — of slaves, servants, insurgents such as those at Morant Bay — for which we have to depend on socially elevated, literate witnesses who have access to official records? She could also look more analytically at narrative, considering its centrality to the missionary outlook in the journals they kept, the letters they wrote, the sermons they preached with salvation as their telos ; as well as at the narratives of contemporary politicians, social scientists, historians, fiction writers and race theorists such as Knox.

She has developed a few unfortunate habits in her new book. Log In Register for Online Access. Contact us for rights and issues inquiries.