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A British sea: making sense of global space in the late nineteenth century*

  • Tamson Pietsch (a1)

It is the contention of this article that historians of the nineteenth century need to think about notions of empire, nation, and race in the context of the social production of space. More specifically, it posits that the moving space of the steamship functioned as a particularly important site in which travellers reworked ideas about themselves and their worlds. Supporting this contention the article pays close attention to the journeys of J. T. Wilson, a young Scottish medical student who between 1884 and 1887 made three voyages to China and one to Australia. For it was in the space of the ship, literally moving along the routes of global trade, that Wilson forged a particular kind of British identity that collapsed the spaces of empire, elided differences among Britons and extended the boundaries of the British nation.

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Charles Withers , Placing the Enlightenment: thinking geographically about the Age of Reason, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007

Christopher L. Hill , National history and the world of nations: capital, state, and the rhetoric of history in Japan, France, and the United States, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008

J. G. A. Pocock , The discovery of islands: essays in British history, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005

Gary B. Magee and Andrew S. Thompson , Empire and globalisation: networks of people, goods and capital in the British world, c. 1850–1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2010

Catherine Hall and Sonja Rose , ‘Introduction: being at home with the empire’, in Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose, eds., At home with the empire: metropolitan culture and the imperial world, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006

James Belich , Replenishing the earth: the settler revolution and the rise of the Angloworld, 1780–1939, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009

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Journal of Global History
  • ISSN: 1740-0228
  • EISSN: 1740-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-global-history
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