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Empire of Sentiment
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  • Cited by 3
  • Joanna Lewis, London School of Economics and Political Science
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Book description

This is the first emotional history of the British Empire. Joanna Lewis explores how David Livingstone's death tied together British imperialism and Victorian humanitarianism and inserted it into popular culture. Sacrifice and death; Superman like heroism; the devotion of Africans; the cruelty of Arab slavery; and the sufferings of the 'ordinary man', generated waves of sentimental feeling. These powerful myths, images and feelings incubated down the generations - through grand ceremonies, further exploration, humanitarianism, Christian teaching, narratives of masculine endeavour and heroic biography - inspiring colonial rule in Africa, white settler pioneers, missionaries and Africans. Empire of Sentiment demonstrates how this central African story shaped Britain's romantic perception of itself as a humane power overseas when the colonial reality fell far short. Through sentimental humanitarianism, Livingstone helped sustain a British Empire in Africa that remained profoundly Victorian, polyphonic and ideological; whilst always understood at home as proudly liberal on race.


'An enthralling analysis of the cult of Livingstone and what it tells us about Victorian imperialism, manly heroism and, above all, modern memory.'

Joanna Bourke Source: Times Higher Education

'Lewis (international history, London School of Economics) situates the 1873 death of missionary David Livingstone in the context of moral imperialism and the impending division of Africa into European spheres of influence. Recommended.'

S. L. Smith Source: Choice

'… [a] worthy contribution to the everburgeoning catalogue of Livingstoniana. Empire of Sentiment: The Death of Livingstone and the Myth of Victorian Imperialism manages to carve out new territory, in two ways in particular. First, Lewis uses the outpouring of grief that ensued when the news of Livingstone’s death reached Britain … to explore how emotion provided a key underpinning for the British Empire. Second, she provides a fresh look at the posthumous myth that came to surround Livingstone, situating it in the context of a twentieth-century colonial southern Africa that relied increasingly heavily on white supremacy enshrined in law, as well as in a postcolonial Africa in which black African rulers sought to shape Livingstone’s legacy for their own ends. Both of these strands are written about in lively and often elegant prose, at the same time as they convey a staggering amount of detail that is clearly the product of prodigious research.'

Stephanie Barczewski Source: The American Historical Review

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