Martin Farr, Xavier Guégan, eds. The British Abroad since the Eighteenth Century, Vol.1: Travellers and Tourists. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. xv + 267 pp. $100.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-137-30414-8.
Martin Farr, Xavier Guégan, eds. The British Abroad since the Eighteenth Century, Vol. 2: Experiencing Imperialism. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 280 pp. $100.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-137-30417-9.
Reviewed by Steve Marti (University of Delaware)
Published on H-HistGeog (August, 2016)
Commissioned by Jon G. Malek (Western University)
Travel, Tourism, and British Identity
The results of the recent “Brexit” referendum provide a cogent demonstration of Britons’ persistent confidence in their own powerful presence in the world. The “Leave” campaign drew support from their hateful rhetoric, which vilified both refugees and immigrants. The hypocrisy of this outrage was countered in part with statistics highlighting the considerable number of Britons living and working abroad in the European Union. Britain has a long history of outward migration, both permanent and temporary, but the arrival of immigrants is an uncomfortable reality for many Britons which seems compartmentalized from the legacies of Britain’s presence abroad. Palgrave MacMillan’s Britain and the World series offers a timely collection of essays to delve into Britons’ imagined relationship with the rest of the world. This two-volume set focuses on the private correspondence, public advertisements, and cultural ephemera generated by the rise of British travel and tourism, which naturalized travel abroad as a component of British identity.
This edited collection assembles a selection of papers presented at a conference in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Newcastle in 2010. The contributors of the collection, most of whom are scholars of history or English literature, hail primarily from institutions in the United Kingdom with some representation from Australia, North America, and continental Europe. The chapters cover a long chronological scope, ranging from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day, in order to examine the varied experiences of Britons traveling abroad. The twenty-four chapters in the collection explore a number of themes including “the relationship between cosmopolitanism and xenophobia; the definition of Britishness at home and abroad; the evolution of the consumer of ‘abroad’; the exportation of ideas and practices, as well as individuals; modern forms of impression and expression; and gender, faith and class perspectives” (pp. 1-2).
The first volume of the collection, “Travellers and Tourists,” opens with a robust introduction outlining the scholarly literature on the tradition of British travel writers reflecting back on “life back in Britain,” as they encountered new places (p. 3). The introduction also outlines how the relatively lower cost of travel allowed a greater portion of Britons to venture overseas, making the traveler’s gaze accessible to a new demographic. The popularization of tourism also changed the experience from a process of discovery to the consumption of exotic places, packaged as all-inclusive trips sold by travel agencies. This first part of the volume examines the “classes of travel” to explore the “social essentialisms” (p. 7) of British travel, with chapters exploring the growing accessibility of seaside holidays, the popularity of Chinese and South Asian furnishings in eighteenth-century English country homes, and the depiction of Edward VII’s travels to India to promote narratives of a technologically superior Britain. The second part of the volume addresses travel within Europe, offering two chapters that examine British perceptions of continental Europe through the lens of travel writing, each chapter focusing alternatively on ideas of modernity and anti-modernity. Martin Farr closes out the section with a chapter on package holidays during the 1970s, to draw nuanced conclusions about the meaning of travel, based on the contradiction of standardized holidays that promised a growing British consumer base the experience of independence and adventure. Part 3 examines Victorian and Edwardian constructions of the British Empire, with chapters on British and American travel writers’ impressions of Australia’s convict and Aboriginal pasts; female artists’ exhibitions on Shanghai; and touring companies’ itineraries for Egyptian holidays. The final part of the first volume, “… and Beyond,” provides a fairly cohesive collection of chapters which explore contexts outside of Europe or the British Empire. Two of the chapters delve into questions of access and accessibility, examining travel restrictions beyond the treaty ports of Imperial Japan and the tourist infrastructure of colonial Algiers, while the third chapter examines the touristic appeal of Tibet as a remote, pristine sanctuary of Buddhism that offered a refreshing escape from a modern, urbanizing Britain. Collectively, these chapters dissect the perceptions and assumptions that shaped British travelers’s view of the world.
The second volume of the collection, “Experiencing Imperialism,” is framed in relation to Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) and David Cannadine’s more recent Ornamentalism (2002). Building on Cannadine’s argument that British imperialists reproduced British social hierarchies in their colonies through titles, honors, and pageantry, and incorporating Mary Louise Pratt’s concept of transculturation, developed in Imperial Eyes (1992), the chapters in this volume examine how the experiences and recollections of British travelers influenced the perception, conquest, and governance of British colonies while also naturalizing imperial power as a pillar of British identity. The three chapters in the part of this volume, titled “Establishing the Empire,” examine how travelogues informed the intellectual foundations of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century imperial missions. These chapters demonstrate how the writings of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century explorers served as evidence in later diplomatic negotiations; how depictions of the Holy Land in eighteenth-century travelogues shaped and were shaped by the beliefs of Restorationist Christians who supported Zionist movements in Britain; and how the reports of the late-Victorian governor of Khartoum justified imperial practices such as race theory and, more significantly, a model for urban planning in colonial cities. Part 2 of the volume turns the analytical lens on the imperial gaze, with studies of the journal of Elizabeth Macquarie--wife to the first governor of New South Wales, photographic depictions of gender in late nineteenth-century South and Southwest Asia, and the lasting constructions or omissions of race travel guides up to the mid-twentieth century. Two of the chapters in the third part of the volume focus on the experience of British travelers in other imperial contexts, such as official travel to Morocco or British military interventions in the Rio Plata, to reveal that such accounts served to discourage a stronger British presence in these regions. A third chapter in this section examines the stylistic choices of an English mercenary’s narrative of the Maroon uprisings in Suriname. The first two chapters of part 4 examine travel writing in a postcolonial world, with two chapters exploring the changing tone of British travelers’s observations of Egypt before and after the Suez Crisis, while the final chapter in the collection examines the linguistic development of English words, such as “uncivil,” that are steeped in the connotations of imperialism. The contributions to this volume demonstrate the relationship between travel, travelogues, and imperial rule.
As the editors of the collection acknowledge, the assembled chapters reflect the serendipity of an open call for papers. The variety of themes and contexts presented in these two volumes undoubtedly presented a common challenge faced by anyone who has undertaken the relatively thankless task of editing an anthology: grouping these submissions into thematic sections to give readers a sense that the collection offers a larger exchange to advance the broader scholarly discourse. Of the two volumes, the second provides a more focused discussion. The chapters of the second volume are assembled around the narrower theme of British imperialism and organized in thematic groupings that highlight complementary methodologies or research questions. The second volume’s relative cohesion corresponds with a greater proportion of historians among the list of contributors. The anthology might have revealed more unified themes by assemblin authors of like disciplines, but the editors demonstrate their dedication to creating interdisciplinary conversations in their grouping of the chapters.
Each chapter in these two volumes contributes a unique perspective to understand the relationship between travel and British identity, delivered with insightful arguments and supported with rigorous primary research. Collectively, the chapters build on a growing literature that examines European travel or tourism as more than benign acts of observation or discovery. As the chapters of these two volumes demonstrate, the experience and representation of travel sustained Britons’s and Britain’s powerful self-image. The breadth of the collection, drawing in chapters that explore contexts beyond the spatial or temporal boundaries of the British Empire, clearly demonstrates the capacity for travel and tourism to reinforce the power relationships that shape Britons’ current view of themselves in the world.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-histgeog.
Steve Marti. Review of Farr, Martin; Guégan, Xavier, eds., The British Abroad since the Eighteenth Century, Vol.1: Travellers and Tourists and
Farr, Martin; Guégan, Xavier, eds., The British Abroad since the Eighteenth Century, Vol. 2: Experiencing Imperialism.
H-HistGeog, H-Net Reviews.
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