Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918

Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918

Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918

Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918


`The contact with . . .primitive nature and primitive man brings sudden and profound trouble into the heart.' (Joseph Conrad) `Flowers look loveliest in their native soil . . .plucked, they fade, And lose the colours Nature on them laid.' (Toru Dutt) This is the first anthology to gather together British imperial writing alongside native and settler literature in English, interweaving short stories, poems, essays, travel writing, and memoirs from the phase of British expansionist imperialism known as high empire. A rich and starling diversity of responses to the colonial experience emerges: voices of imperial; adventurers, administrators, memsahibs, propagandists and poets intermingle with West Indian and South African nationalists, Indian mystics, Creole balladeers, women activists and native interpreters. Drawn from India, Africa, the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, and Britain, this wide-ranging selection reveals the vivid contrasts and subtle shifts in responses to colonial experience, and embraces some of empire's key symbols and emblematic moments. Comprehensive notes and full biographies ensure that this is one of the most compelling, readable and academically valuable source books on the period.


While working in India during 1862 Trevelyan experienced a 'gradual but complete' change of political heart which he recorded in the letters written for Macmillan's Magazine which became The Competition Wallah. It was a change from 'rabid Anglo-Saxonism' and 'nigger' hatred, as he said in the Preface to the book, to a deeper recognition of cultural relativity, and, accompanying this, an affirmation of the imperialist's duty to govern for the benefit of the inhabitants of India'. The Competition Wallah is a series of fictionalized 'letters home' from Henry Broughton, a Cambridge hearty who has surprised everyone by passing the competitive examination for the Indian Civil Service, to his stay-at-home friend Charles Simkins. Trevelyan was no competition wallah himself but, following the success of the book, the term became a catchphrase to distinguish those who had sat the competitive examinations to the Civil Service (instituted from 1856) from those who had proceeded by nomination (such as John Beames (qv.)).

An Indian Railway

Bankipore, alias Patna, Feb. 7, 1863.

Towards the end of last month I applied for, and obtained, six weeks' leave, after passing in the first of my two languages. It is a fact worthy of note, that the men who fail are very generally dissatisfied with the manner in which this examination is conducted, while the men who succeed seem, on the whole, inclined to think that there is not much amiss. On the evening of the 31st I left Calcutta by train, with the intention of living a week at Patna with Major Ratcliffe, who . . .

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