CIVILISING SUBJECTS CATHERINE HALL PDF

In Civilising Subjects, Catherine Hall argues that the idea of empire was at the heart of mid-nineteenth-century British self-imagining, with peoples such as the "Aborigines" in Australia and the "negroes" in Jamaica serving as markers of difference separating "civilised" English from "savage" others. Hall uses the stories of two groups of Englishmen and -women to explore British self-constructions both in the colonies and at home. In Jamaica, a group of Baptist missionaries hoped to make African-Jamaicans into people like themselves, only to be disappointed when the project proved neither simple nor congenial to the black men and women for whom they hoped to fashion new selves. And in Birmingham, abolitionist enthusiasm dominated the city in the s, but by the s, a harsher racial vocabulary reflected a new perception of the nonwhite subjects of empire as different kinds of men from the "manly citizens" of Birmingham.

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By Catherine Hall. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, Its narrative moves from Britain to Australia to Jamaica, and its ramifications have been engaged by reviewers from elsewhere in the British empire as well. But in what field does it intervene? In her title and in her text, Hall clearly identifies her subject to be British colonial consciousness, the self-image of those who lived and worked in the Empire as well as the British public that supported their efforts.

The case studies around which Civilising Subjects is organized argue in persuasive empirical detail that British history happened on a transnational stage, that even local social relations were shaped by developments in the colonies, that the most domestic corners of the Victorian past, including the history of the family itself, cannot be fully understood without taking the empire into account. This question about the field in which Hall intervenes also speaks to critics who have faulted Hall for marginalizing the voices of the colonized.

That their history involved a lot more than their influence on British people, culture, and ideas, is an important if obvious point. She rightly leaves the history of the colonized in the able hands of area specialists, whose scholarship she gratefully mines.

To attempt to tell these stories herself would not only have loosened the focus of this carefully argued book; it would also have been an act of professional hubris in my view, an imperious move on the part of a British historian to colonize a historiography not her own by training or inspiration. The locale on which Hall focuses lies in the industrial heartland of the British Empire: the English Midlands, in and around Birmingham.

Birmingham has been explicitly characterized by more traditionally minded imperial historians as untouched by the imperial experience. Hall, herself the daughter of a Baptist minister, focuses primarily on the Baptist Missionary Society, founded in her own home town of Kettering in Historians of the colonized world have long recognized the significance of the missionary contribution to European imperialism.

Not surprisingly, given their broad social catchments on both sides of the colonial divide, foreign missions became a lightning rod for the tensions that beset the imperial project. Thomas Burchell in was not the only occasion on which a missionary was prosecuted for fomenting unrest amongst colonized populations. Jamaican missions were uppermost in the minds of those early Victorian evangelicals who cut their political teeth, so to speak, on the campaign to abolish slavery.

It was the first mass movement in British political history, and it facilitated the expansion of the political nation beyond the limited boundaries of citizenship defined by the parliamentary franchise. Moreover, slavery was abolished in the immediate aftermath of the middle class acquisition of the vote in Slavery and emancipation were not simply intellectual abstractions, distant chimeras to which the British public gave fleeting or superficially informed attention.

The Victorians, if not their postcolonial successors, were very aware that their own history was being made in the colonies. Thompson, popular identity is intrinsically relational. Social groups, be they a working class or an imperial race, do not come into being sui generis, nor do they encounter other groups as fully formed unitary subjects. It is instructive to note that while the working class relates to the middle class somewhere off stage in The Making, the concrete interactions through which racialization occurs occupies the center stage of Civilising Subjects.

Colonized and colonizer are internally divided. Black mission converts are distinguished from black or Native Baptists[ 18 ]; white missionaries and white planters waged bitter battle and both confronted the distinctive demands of British government officials. Individuals, moreover, occupy more than one subject location. Generational divides—variation over time as well as social space—are crucial to the narrative as well.

This would render them more susceptible to the racialist explanations of cultural difference that underwrote the late Victorian imperial project. Influence flowed not just from colony to metropole but from colony to colony. Eyre arrived in Jamaica having served in Australia, where he enjoyed very different, and more positive, relations with aboriginal peoples than he would with the freed people he encountered in Jamaica.

The aboriginal people that Eyre encountered in Australia had been decimated by disease and were demographically as well as militarily weak in relation to the majority European population. Eyre was a child of the antislavery movement, and his humanitarian sympathies were aroused by aboriginal vulnerability to European abuses. Eyre found himself in a very different relation to colonized peoples when he arrived in the West Indies in As lieutenant —governor of St.

The Afro-Jamaican population occupied a very different position from their aboriginal Australian counterparts. In other words, Eyre did not encounter a population he could frame as abject victims; he encountered, to the contrary, a politicized population demanding civil, political, and economic rights.

The imperial imaginary began to shift in the s, away from the humanitarian preoccupations of antislavery and the West Indies, embodied in Birmingham by Joseph Sturge, founder of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, in favor of a racialized populism preoccupied with European nationalisms and the colonies of white settlement.

This whitening of foreign affairs was not due to any innate lack of interest in non-white colonies as not related to English identity or concerns. Efforts to resist if not overthrow British colonial authority were made throughout the empire during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, including the Maori wars in New Zealand, the Mutiny in India, rebellion in the West Indies, and later the Zulu wars in southern Africa.

Their response was to recast the former objects of abolitionist pity as vicious threats to civilization. Not only were colonial bread and circuses then as now useful distractions from domestic conflicts; the empire offered material rewards to those workers able and willing to reap them.

There is a degree of historical specificity at work here by no means routine in social history. Not only does Hall attend to political events and intellectual currents; she moves social historical analysis beyond the abstractions of anthropomorphized social groups. Her attention to historical contingency also makes it clear that the complex subjectivity that constitutes our very humanity precludes any uniform reaction to circumstance.

However, the social relations of power are not conceived in terms of binary oppositions that readily coalesce into coherent and self-contained groups. This allows Hall to avoid the political and ideological reductionism for which social history has been rightly taken to task. For some, and especially for many missionaries, this refuge was more capitulation to a turning of the political tide, a racism of defeat so to speak, rather than the inevitable expression of their socially determined interests.

Projects of such transnational magnitude encourage if not require a collaborative approach to scholarship. Synthesizing the research of area specialists is surely the only way we will be able to follow the historical process across national archival divides. And here, as elsewhere, Hall sets an ethical standard for the most generous attributions I have ever encountered. Hall freely acknowledges that Civilizing Subjects and the new imperial history with which it is associated is new only insofar as it is practiced by historians whose primary interest and training is in British historical studies.

We owe its organizing insights, that colonialism produced colonizing as well as colonized subjects and political economies, to scholars whose primary interest and institutional affiliations are in the colonized world: Eric Williams, Frantz Fanon, C. James, Edward Said, among others. Hall is hardly the first author to include her own subject location in a scholarly narrative.

Nevertheless, she has done so more usefully, here and elsewhere, than any other author of my acquaintance. This is due in part to her singularly influential role in guiding the field of modern British studies to its postcolonial present. However, she also provides us all with an object lesson in scholarly responsibility to a present in which the ghosts of imperialisms past are particularly visible.

Imperialism is undergoing a moral facelift in the aftermath of September 11th, with widespread support from an increasingly corporate academy. Civilisation is, in short, a language of power rather than the neutral or universal gift its self-proclaimed bearers claim. The ultimate objective of the civilizing mission, past and present, is the expansion of free market capitalism.

There are differences, of course, between our own age of American empire and the Victorian colonial project Hall describes. Civilizations are now being construed in ways that render their clash in the form of total war virtually inevitable. The rule by law, however rigged the latter might have been, was at least upheld in principle as the foundation on which civilized pretensions rest.

In these troubling times, the kind of connective historical inquiry that Catherine Hall so deftly deploys is of the utmost utility. The unprecedented imbalance of power in the world today, the unrivalled nature of US military supremacy, and the supine complicity of our corporate-controlled media, renders the ideological battle for metropolitan hearts and minds perhaps more crucial than at any previous conjuncture in the imperial history of modernity.

This is precisely the quarry that Catherine Hall targets in that other place in time that was Victorian England.

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Works Cited

By Catherine Hall. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, Its narrative moves from Britain to Australia to Jamaica, and its ramifications have been engaged by reviewers from elsewhere in the British empire as well. But in what field does it intervene? In her title and in her text, Hall clearly identifies her subject to be British colonial consciousness, the self-image of those who lived and worked in the Empire as well as the British public that supported their efforts.

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London Review of Books

It reflects on the ways in which metropolitan ideas and practices have been shaped by the colonial experience. Some of my work has focused on the long relationship between England and Jamaica Civilising Subjects. Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination []. More recently I completed a study of the Macaulays, father and son Macaulay and Son. Architects of Imperial Britain []. Zachary was a leading evangelical and abolitionist, his son, Thomas Babington, the great historian of England.

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Civilising Subjects

In Civilising Subjects, Catherine Hall argues that the idea of empire was at the heart of mid-nineteenth-century British self-imagining, with peoples such as the "Aborigines" in Australia and the "negroes" in Jamaica serving as markers of difference separating "civilised" English from "savage" others. Hall uses the stories of two groups of Englishmen and -women to explore British self-constructions both in the colonies and at home. In Jamaica, a group of Baptist missionaries hoped to make African-Jamaicans into people like themselves, only to be disappointed when the project proved neither simple nor congenial to the black men and women for whom they hoped to fashion new selves. And in Birmingham, abolitionist enthusiasm dominated the city in the s, but by the s, a harsher racial vocabulary reflected a new perception of the nonwhite subjects of empire as different kinds of men from the "manly citizens" of Birmingham. This absorbing study of the "racing" of Englishness will be invaluable for imperial and cultural historians. Table of Contents.

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Catherine Hall

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