Heroic imperialists in Africa

The promotion of British and French colonial heroes, 1870–1939

By Berny Sebe

Heroic imperialists in Africa


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9751-5
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £22.99
  • Published Date: April 2015
  • BIC Category: European history, Colonialism & imperialism, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


From the height of 'New Imperialism' until the Second World War, three generations of heroes of the British and French empires in Africa were selected, manufactured and packaged for consumption by a metropolitan public eager to discover new horizons and to find comfort in the concept of a 'civilising mission'.

Available in paperback for the first time, this book looks at imperial heroism by examining the legends of a dozen major colonial figures on both sides of the Channel, revisiting the familiar stories of Livingstone, Gordon and Kitchener from a radically new angle, and throwing light on their French counterparts, often less famous in the Anglophone world but certainly equally fascinating.


'In this superbly researched and elegantly written book, Sèbe has opened a vital new chapter in the cultural history of empire, and also helped to explain why it was often so difficult to control headstrong "men on the spot". And by comparing the practices of this "hero-making" industry in Britain and France, he has made an important contribution to the wider scholarship on Europe's imperialisms.'
John Darwin, University of Oxford

'Essential reading for all students and scholars of colonial history. Sèbe is sensitive to the very different French and British contexts of the individuals he presents, but the overall impact of his study lies in its insightful delineation of the phenomenon of "celebrity colonialism". This book constitutes a timely intervention in debates about the complex interactions between European and African histories.'
Charles Forsdick, University of Liverpool

'Berny Sèbe has written an original and imaginative work. This stimulating and resourceful book penetrates the reality of myth-building in the colonial era.'
Wm. Roger Louis, University of Texas at Austin

'Brilliantly combines the history of mentalities and quantitative history to reveal the mediated nature of, and political alchemy behind, these figures at the heart of the "imperial mindset" of Britain and France.'
Jacques Frémeaux, University of Paris-Sorbonne

'Undoubtedly a highly significant and elegantly written work.'
Thomas Sharp, Oxford Brookes University, War in History 24 (1)


Berny Sèbe is Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Birmingham


1. The emergence of a new type of hero: British and French contexts
2. Imperial heroes and the market I: the written world
3. Imperial heroes and the market II: the audiovisual world
4. Imperial heroes and domestic politics
5. Cross-Channel Entente? The values embodied by imperial heroes
6. The creation of the Marchand legend, 1895-1906
7. George Warrington Steevens, Blackwood Publishers and the making of 'With Kitchener to Khartoum'

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