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Colonial Voices


  • 21 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 326 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.66 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 427/.994
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PE3601 .D36 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • English language--Australia
    • English language--Dialects--Australia
    • English language--Variation--Australia
    • English language--Australia--History--19th century
    • English language--Australia--History--20th century

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521516310)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published June 2010

In stock

 (Stock level updated: 02:09 GMT, 28 November 2015)


Colonial Voices explores the role of language in the greater 'civilising' project of the British Empire through the dissemination and reception of, and challenge to, British English in Australia during the period from the 1840s to the 1940s. This was a period in which the art of oratory, eloquence and elocution was of great importance in the empire and Joy Damousi offers an innovative study of the relationship between language and empire. She shows the ways in which this relationship moved from dependency to independence and how, during that transition, definitions of the meaning and place of oratory, eloquence and elocution shifted. Her findings reveal the central role of voice and pronunciation in informing and defining both individual and collective identity, as well as wider cultural views of class, race, nation and gender. The result is a pioneering contribution to cultural history and the history of English within the British Empire.

• Innovative cultural history of English in the British Empire by one of Australia's leading historians • Considers how speech is part of our individual and collective identity, enhancing our understanding of the role of language in our culture • Will appeal to scholars and students of cultural history, Australian and colonial history and the history of the English language


Introduction; Prologue: from England to empire; Part I. Colonial Experience: 1. Civilising speech; 2. Eloquence and voice culture; 3. Elocution theory and practice; Part II. Language Education: 4. Etiquette and everyday life; 5. Education; 6. Teachers and pupils; Part III. Social Reform and Oratory: 7. Social reform and eloquence; 8. Speech in war, 1914–18; Part IV. Australian English: 9. The colonies speak: speech and accent in the empire, 1920s and 1930s; 10. Broadcasting the radio voice; 11. The advent of the 'talkies' and imagined communities; Epilogue.


'In this book Joy Damousi shows that imagination has ears. She sketches a great ant-nest of sound, the sound of Australian voices in the past, and shows how they were regulated and reformed, restricted and empowered. This is a path-breaking book, brilliantly researched and beautifully written. Joy Damousi shows that the Australian sense of self is much more complicated than we ever thought. Shifting ideas about speech, and about the right way to speak, have been crucial to the question of national belonging, more subtle than skin colour but maybe just as powerful.' Alan Atkinson, University of Sydney and author of The Europeans in Australia

'One of Australia's most distinguished historians, Joy Damousi has now turned her attention to language and speech. This wide-ranging book captures insights into aspects of Australian history from colonial race relations to elocution and public oratory; education, class and gender; and questions of accent surrounding the advent of radio and 'the talkies'. The result is a rich and fascinating account that shows how sound is at the very core of culture and history.' Angela Woollacott, Australian National University and author of Gender and Empire

'A lively and engaging overview, probing the ways in which images and ideologies of language - particularly in terms of speech and voice - can variously be deployed (and redeployed) in the contexts of Australian English and its own historical trajectories. Joy Damousi makes use of a range of innovative primary material, to explore some of the colonial legacies of language attitudes which have their political and socio-cultural origins in the heyday of Empire.' Lynda C. Mugglestone, University of Oxford and author of Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol

'… a highly original study of the relationship between language and empire and the centrality of voice and pronunciation in defining individual and collective identity.' The Historical Association (

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