Heroic imperialists in Africa

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

Berny Sèbe

Price: GBP£ 75.00
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ISBN: 978-0-7190-8492-8
Series: Studies in Imperialism
Subject Area: History
BIC Category: Colonialism & imperialism
Published: July 2013
234 x 156 mm
304 pages
Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Description
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Reviews
  • 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’. 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.
    General Editor's introduction
    I: Contexts
    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
    II: Uses
    4. Imperial heroes and domestic politics
    5. Cross-Channel Entente? The values embodied by imperial heroes
    III: Case studies
    6. The creation of the Marchand legend, 1895–1906
    7. George Warrington Steevens, Blackwood Publishers and the making of 'With Kitchener to Khartoum'
    Biographical sketches
    Berny Sèbe is Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Birmingham
    '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

    The recently released book is thoroughly recommended. It provides new insights into the European colonial and press history and shines through the diversity of its sources, is clearly structured and written pleasantly.

    Isabell Scheele

    Its archival richness and its refreshing reliance on literary history make it not only a balanced, but also a finely textured, interdisciplinary piece of scholarship.


    Heroic Imperialists in Africa stands at the crossroads between imperial, cultural, publishing and even literary history. It opens new perspectives and undoubtedly deserves to be widely read.

    Daniel Foliard

    This eloquent and impressive study analyses the mergence of imperial heros in Britain and France throughout the era of high imperialism. read more
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