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Relative distances: family and empire between Britain, British Columbia and India, 1858-1901

Ishiguro, L.M.; (2011) Relative distances: family and empire between Britain, British Columbia and India, 1858-1901. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores the entangled relationship between family and empire in the late-nineteenth-century British Empire. Using the correspondence of British families involved in British Columbia or India between 1858 and 1901, it argues that family letters worked to make imperial lives possible, sustainable and meaningful. This correspondence enabled Britons to come to terms with the personal separations that were necessary for the operation of empire; to negotiate the nature of shifting relationships across imperial distances; and to produce and transmit family forms of colonial knowledge. In these ways, Britons ‘at home’ and abroad used correspondence to navigate the meanings of empire through the prism of family, both in everyday separations and in moments of crisis. Overall, the thesis argues, letter-writing thus positioned the family as a key building block of empire that bound together distant and different places in deeply personal and widely experienced, if also tenuous and anxious, ways. The thesis follows a modular structure, with chapters that explore overlapping but distinct topics of correspondence: food, dress, death and letterwriting itself. Each of these offers a different lens onto the ways in which family correspondence linked Britain with India and British Columbia through intimate channels of affection, obligation, information and representation. At the same time, this multi-sited study also probes the relationships among these three places during the second half of the nineteenth century. Comparing the writing of families engaged with two very different sites of empire—one, an anxiety-ridden garrison state imagined as the ‘jewel in the crown of empire,’ and the other, a more distant and comparatively unknown settler colony on the ‘edge of empire’—the thesis develops a history of British imperial families that underscores the importance of both specific, local contexts and the wider, partially interconnected world of the British Empire.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Relative distances: family and empire between Britain, British Columbia and India, 1858-1901
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Copyright restricted material has been removed from the e-thesis.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History

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