The Cultural Work of Empire: The Seven Years' War and the Imagining of the Shandean State

The Cultural Work of Empire: The Seven Years' War and the Imagining of the Shandean State

The Cultural Work of Empire: The Seven Years' War and the Imagining of the Shandean State

The Cultural Work of Empire: The Seven Years' War and the Imagining of the Shandean State


This book argues that the Seven Years' War (1756-63) produced an intense historical consciousness within British cultural life regarding the boundaries of belonging to community, family and nation. Global warfare prompts a radical re-imagining of the state and the subjectivities of those who inhabit it. Laurence Sterne's distinctive writing provides a remarkable route through the transformations of mid-eighteenth-century British culture. The risks of war generate unexpected freedoms and crises in the making of domestic imperial subjects, which will continue to reverberate in anti-slavery struggles and colonial conflict from America to India. The book concentrates on the period from the 1750s to the 1770s. It explores the work of Johnson, Goldsmith, Walpole, Burke, Scott, Wheatley, Sancho, Smollett, Rousseau, Collier, Smith and Wollstonecraft alongside Sterne's narratives. It incorporates debates among moral philosophers and philanthropists, examines political tracts, poetry and grammar exercises, and paintings by Kauffman, Hayman, and Wright of Derby, tracking the investments in, and resistances to, the cultural work of empire. Key Features
• Topical in its focus on the making of 'modern' subjectivity during the first 'global war'• Path-breaking in advancing our understanding of the cultural history of eighteenth-century Britain
• Timely in its combination of new historical research with a critical engagement with debates in postcolonial and subaltern studies
• Original in its account of the literature of the Seven Years' War and its outstanding analysis of the writing of Laurence Sterne


We do not pretend to give the name of history to what we have written.

Annual Register (1758)

Tuesday, 14 September 1762. In the small Sussex village of East Hoathly, a shopkeeper and parish officer, Thomas Turner, sat down to write an entry into his journal. He was an assiduous man, and his diary is full of the detailed transactions of daily life, from his household ledgers to the composition of his dinners, a recipe for leftovers, important in a time of scarcity, saved from the monthly magazines. Despite his concern for self-improvement, voiced with a certain shamefaced regularity after each Sunday sermon, he liked a sociable drink. On this particular evening he had been visited by a close friend, Mr Tipper, who in addition to knowing 'immortal Hudibras by heart' (as his tombstone records) was also a Newhaven brewer, and excise officer during the hop harvest. Turner's record was to the point. 'At home all day and pretty busy. In the afternoon employed myself a-writing. In the even Mr Tipper read to me part of a - I know not what to call it but Tristram Shandy.'

Mr Tipper had brought along Laurence Sterne's comic novel a little after its first volumes had made such an impact on the circles of fashionable literary life. And if we put aside for a moment that briefest tremor of typographical consternation in Turner's entry at quite what it was that his guest was reading aloud, we might note that his hesitation was not attributable to ignorance. Sterne's was one of a range of books that Turner records encountering in the pages of his journal. He liked Shakespeare, shared with many of his contemporaries a familiarity with sermons (Sterne's among them), and was keen to keep up with the matter of the monthly magazines and the news from the London Gazette and the Sussex Weekly Advertiser. He was interested in . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.