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The White Man's World (Memories Of Empire) [Hardcover]

Bill Schwarz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

27 Oct 2011 Memories Of Empire
Memories of Empire is a trilogy which explores the complex, subterranean political currents which emerged in English society during the years of postwar decolonization. Bill Schwarz shows that, through the medium of memory, the empire was to continue to possess strange afterlives long after imperial rule itself had vanished. The White Man's World, the first volume in the trilogy, explores ideas of the white man as they evolved during the time of the British Empire, from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, looking particularly at the transactions between the colonies and the home society of England. The story works back from the popular response to Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech in 1968, in which identifications with racial whiteness came to be highly charged. Driving this new racial politics, Bill Schwarz proposes, were unappeased memories of Britain's imperial past. The White Man's World surveys the founding of the so-called white colonies, looking in particular at Australia, South Africa, and Rhodesia, and argues that it was in this experience that contemporary meanings of racial whiteness first cohered. These colonial nations - 'white men's countries', as they were popularly known - embodied the conviction that the future of humankind lay in the hands of white men. The systems of thought which underwrote the ideas of the white man, and of the white man's country, worked as a form of ethnic populism, which gave life to the concept of Greater Britain. But if during the Victorian and Edwardian period the empire was largely narrated in heroic terms, in the masculine mode, by the time of decolonization in the 1960s racial whiteness had come to signify defeat and desperation, not only in the colonies but in the metropole too. Identifications with racial whiteness did not disappear in England in the moment of decolonization: they came alive again, fuelled by memories of what whiteness had once represented, recalling the empire as a lost racial utopia.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 600 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (27 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019929691X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199296910
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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wonderful the finest investigation of these themes for many years. Stephen Howe, The Independent Schwarz exhibits the breadth of his political and historiographical credentials. The Irish Times impressive in its reach and crammed with fascinating material. Peter Parker, Times Literary Supplement Schwarz should be congratulated on what he has achieved here Schwarz's knowledge of the secondary literature is outstanding; his writing is effortlessly readable and wonderfully mischievous at times. Joanna Lewis, Times Higher Education The White Man's World is an important book; a major contribution to interrogating the view that in general Empire had little impact on the British public ... by showing how deeply formative its often imagined memory, symbols and myths are in our world today. Juliet Gardiner, History Today It is an elegant thesis, segueing with delightful ease between history and memory, colony and capital and drawing on a diverse collection of sources ... One can but look forward with keen anticipation to his next instalment. . Anna Sanderson, History Today Schwarz has a thorough mastery of the complex historiography of the British Empire, and a mind supple enough to formulate new and interesting questions. Michael Burleigh, The Literary Review original and intellectually imaginative. Martin Francis, English Historical Review A highly accomplished and illuminating study of an imperial tradition in which hope and idealism co-exist (sometimes in a single individual) with feelings of loss and betrayal. Saul Dubow, Twentieth Century British History This is an extremely significant book, a deeply impressive work. Ashley Jackson, BBC History Magazine It is hard to do justice to this magisterial piece of work ... The luxuriously long form of Schwarz's narrative is utterly inseparable from the force of his argument. Antoinette Burton, American Historical Review Though clearly inspired by recent works of memory studies, Schwarz avoids much of the jargon that prevails in them. Instead, he presents an in-depth reading of the writings of some of the prominent public figures in the history of the British Empire from the 19th to the late 20th centuries. Q. E. Wang, CHOICE I am hoping that the next two volumes prove to be equally as conceptually sophisticated, and empirically diverting, as White Man's World. Ruth Craggs, The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs The particular charm of the book lies in its nuanced style and method ... Scholars will find in its wealth of knowledge tantalising new avenues for future research, while its effortless crossing between academic boundaries offers a reminder of just how good interdisciplinary history can be. Sam Hutchinson, Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies represents an extraordinary achievement in writing about the changing process of colonisation and the nostalgic mythmaking of empire's passing in the face of decolonization movements ... a major study representing the best that critical imperial history has to offer. Fiona Paisley, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

About the Author

Bill Schwarz has taught Sociology, Cultural Studies, History, Communications and English. He draws from this varied intellectual background to tell his lively story of the idea of the white man in the British empire. He has been a member of the History Workshop Journal collective for more than twenty years.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and important book 19 July 2012
It's difficult in the short space of an Amazon review to do justice to this magisterial book. It's a highly sophisticated reading of imperial history, and it has its share of theoretical reflections on identity and colonial discourses, but don't let that put you off a superbly well-written, eye-opening book about the enduring fantasy of the white man as the pinnacle of humankind and the baneful effects of this myth on modern Britain.

Bill Schwarz delves into now-forgotten books and reputations in order to explore his theme. With a wonderfully ironic eye he resurrects figures like Jan Smuts, the Boer general and statesman who was once revered as the visionary of the British Empire and was treated like a sage by the British political establishment. Smuts imagined a vast African Empire stretching from the Cape up through Kenya in which the native populations would live under the wise guidance of the white man. Churchill and Amery revered him, but even liberal and left-wing British politicians and the mainstream press took his every utterance seriously.

Schwarz has - to take one more example - a marvellous and witty chapter about John Buchan, whose books have never been out of print and who dreamed the same kind of dreams: the 'real' white man was the one who tested himself in the African veld and bush, who was creating a land fit for whites to live in while the home country was degenerating into softness and feminism and social democracy.

Interwoven with these forays into Africa - there's also a compelling account of the short-lived Central African Federation and the rise of the hard-line pro-independence party in Rhodesia, which led to a vicious and avoidable guerilla war - are Schwarz's encounters with the last-ditch defenders of the White Man's Destiny at home.
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