British Women and Cultural Practices of Empire, 1770-1940
Correspondence, travel writing, diary writing, painting, scrapbooking, curating, collecting and house interiors allowed British women scope to express their responses to imperial sites and experiences in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Taking these productions as its archive, British Women and Cultural Practices of Empire, 1775-1930 includes a collection of essays from different disciplines that consider the role of British women's cultural practices and productions in conceptualising empire. While such productions have started to receive greater scholarly attention, this volume uses a more self-conscious lens of gender to question whether female cultural work demonstrates that colonial women engaged with the spaces and places of empire in distinctive ways. By working across disciplines, centuries and different colonial geographies, the volume makes an exciting and important contribution to the field by demonstrating the diverse ways in which European women shaped constructions of empire in the modern period.
“It is well established that work, culture, and empire were highly gendered concepts and practices in nineteenth century Britain. And yet, women are rarely invoked as cultural producers in the networks of Empire. This superb collection of essays examines the cultural significance of British women travelling, collecting, publishing, crafting, curating, cultivating, sketching, administering, and more. Moving well beyond bureaucratic archives, this volume recovers compelling material traces of the role that British women played in the creation and propagation of empire.” —Douglas Fordham, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Virginia, USA
“Here comes a long overdue interdisciplinary study of British women and their literary and material engagements with the British empire in the long nineteenth century. The reader travels from North Carolina to Zanzibar, India to Australia, in a geographical sweep that encompasses the length and breadth of Britain's empire. Along the way, we encounter a staggering array of things from letters to coconut shells and flower paintings to an ivory throne as the authors examine the dense networks of art and material cultures that shaped the public and private domains of imperial life. From everyday objects and select royal gifts emerge complex histories of travel, curiosity, art-patronage, gift-exchange, loot, frontier politics, and slavery.” —Romita Ray, Associate Professor of Art History, Syracuse University, USA
“Taking a diverse approach to material culture in Empire, this book broadens our understanding of the imperial archive, allowing us ultimately to read the lives and experiences of women in Empire in new ways. Enriched with sumptuous detail and extensive research, the reader embarks on a virtual tour of the female networks of material culture, collecting and creating that enlivened the lives of colonial women, and left a legacy of female agency and action for the historian. These women made sense of their colonial lives by reference to remembered landscape of home, a sense of purpose through collection and curation, and by creating webs of imagined community with their correspondents at home and abroad through the writing of letters and the sending of gifts. Bringing together gendered, literary, visual and material cultures, this volume gives a uniquely enriched insight into the lives of imperial women from the objects they collected, the texts they created, and the networks they curated.” —Emily Manktelow, Senior Lecturer in Global and Colonial History, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK