Frontier violence in the nineteenth-century British Empire

Book chapter


Nettelbeck, Amanda and Ryan, Lyndall. (2020) Frontier violence in the nineteenth-century British Empire. In In L. Edwards, N. Penn and J. Winter (Ed.). The Cambridge World History of Violence: Volume 4, 1800 to the Present pp. 227 - 245 Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316585023
AuthorsNettelbeck, Amanda and Ryan, Lyndall
EditorsL. Edwards, N. Penn and J. Winter
Abstract

[Extract] In The Trouble with Empire, Antoinette Burton explores how violence accompanied the imperial project wherever it went. Arising from a perennial struggle between imperial expansionism and counter-resistance, she argues, violence emerged as an inherent feature of Britain’s colonial frontiers. Although it sometimes took the form of large-scale warfare, colonial violence predominantly manifested itself as innumerable, small-scale insurrections that perpetually called forth Britain’s military interventions. The level of repressive violence that was required to shore up Britain’s fragile rule over its extensive territories belied its own understanding of itself as a harbinger of civilisation. Rather than representing a benign civilising force, the British Empire was a ‘great military machine’, as Richard Gott puts it, one that over an extended period pursued the widespread exploitation of peoples, lands and resources. This is not to say that ideas of civilisation exist in a state of inevitable contradiction with violence. As the precedent of the Roman Empire had demonstrated, the violence of colonisation and a belief in its civilising potential had long gone hand in hand, and this was also true of the British Empire in the nineteenth century. Framed by the beginning of the Second British Empire (with American independence in 1783) and the end of the so-called imperial century (with the onset of World War I in 1914), the ‘long’ nineteenth century of the British Empire witnessed a period of unparalleled territorial growth accompanied by various forms of coercion.

Page range227 - 245
Year2020
Book titleThe Cambridge World History of Violence: Volume 4, 1800 to the Present
PublisherCambridge University Press
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
ISBN9781316585023
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316585023
Research GroupInstitute for Humanities and Social Sciences
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