Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

IMPERIAL BARBARIANS: PRIMITIVE MASCULINITY IN LOST WORLD FICTION

  • Bradley Deane (a1)
Abstract

Cecil Rhodes, the “Colossus” of late Victorian empire, proudly proclaimed himself a barbarian. He spoke of his taste for things “big and simple, barbaric, if you like,” and boasted that he conducted himself “on the basis of a barbarian” (Millin 165, 242). His famous scholarships designed to turn out men fit for imperial mastery required success in “manly outdoor sports,” a criterion Rhodes privately called the proof of “brutality” (Stead 39). Yet while Rhodes celebrated qualities he called barbaric or brutal, his adversaries seized upon the same rhetoric to revile him. During the Boer War, for instance, the tactics by which Rhodes and his friends tightened their grip on South Africa were boldly condemned by Henry Campbell-Bannerman as “methods of barbarism.” Similarly, G. K. Chesterton denounced Rhodes as nothing more than a “Sultan” who conquered the “East” only to reinforce the backward “Oriental” values of fatalism and despotism (242–44). This strange consensus, in which Rhodes and his critics could agree about his barbarity, reflects a significant uncertainty about late Victorian imperial ambitions and their relationship to “barbarism.” Clearly, the term was available both to the empire's critics as a metaphor for unprincipled or indiscriminate violence and to imperialists as a justification for their efforts to bring civilization to the Earth's dark places, to spread the gospel, and to enforce the progress of history that the anthropologist E. B. Tylor called “the onward movement from barbarism” (29). But Rhodes's cheerful assertion of his own barbarity represents something altogether different: the apparent paradox of an imperialism that openly embraces the primitive. Nor was Rhodes alone in sounding this particularly troubling version of the barbaric yawp. During the period of the New Imperialism (1871–1914), Victorian popular culture became engrossed as never before in charting vectors of convergence between the British and those they regarded as primitive, and in imagining the ways in which barbarians might make the best imperialists of all. This transvaluation of savagery found its most striking expression in the emergence of a wildly popular genre of fiction: stories of lost worlds.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      IMPERIAL BARBARIANS: PRIMITIVE MASCULINITY IN LOST WORLD FICTION
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      IMPERIAL BARBARIANS: PRIMITIVE MASCULINITY IN LOST WORLD FICTION
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      IMPERIAL BARBARIANS: PRIMITIVE MASCULINITY IN LOST WORLD FICTION
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Gail Bederman . Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995.

Laura Chrisman . Rereading the Imperial Romance: British Imperialism and South African Resistance in Haggard, Schreiner, and Plaatje. New York: Oxford UP, 2000.

Ter Ellingson . The Myth of the Noble Savage. Berkeley: U of California P, 2001.

Bruce Haley . The Healthy Body and Victorian Culture. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978.

Edward Marx . “How We Lost Kafiristan.” Representations 67 (Summer 1999): 4466.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics