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Making Empire
Colonial Encounters and the Creation of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century Africa

textbook Award Winner
  • Date Published: October 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521718196


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About the Authors
  • This is the dramatic story of the colonial encounter and the construction of empire in Southern Africa in the nineteenth century. What did the British make of the Xhosa and how did they make sense of their politics and culture? How did the British establish and then explain their dominion, especially when it ran counter to the cultural values they believed themselves to represent? In this book, Richard Price answers these questions by looking at the ways in which individual missionaries, officials and politicians interacted with the Xhosa. He describes how those encounters changed and shaped the culture of imperial rule in Southern Africa. He charts how an imperial regime developed both in the minds of the colonizers and in the everyday practice of power and how the British imperial presence was entangled in and shaped by the encounter with the Xhosa from the very moment of their first meeting.

    • Fascinating account of the colonial encounter between the British and the Xhosa
    • Sheds new light on the development of a culture of imperial rule in Southern Africa
    • Will appeal to scholars and students of modern British history, imperial history and colonial studies
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    • Awarded the 2009 Albion Prize by the North American Conference of British Studies for the 'Best Book on British Studies since 1800'

    Reviews & endorsements

    'In this exceptionally rich and sensitive study, Richard Price examines the clash between the British and the Xhosa in nineteenth-century South Africa - a laboratory, he suggests, for the imperial conquest of Africa. He traces the sad retreat by British missionaries and officials from a liberal humanitarianism to a harsh racism and the shrewd resistance by Xhosa chiefs to the encroachments of empire. This book offers as insightful an analysis of the colonial encounter and as moving an assessment of its costs as any I have read in some time.' Dane Kennedy, George Washington University

    'Making Empire is an enthralling study of the colonial encounter which probes and dissects a maze of stories and episodes generated by touchy dealings between Africans and Britain's military, missionary and other intrusive agents of empire. As a deft exploration of how the British grappled to make sense of it all, there is really nothing quite like it in the field. Combining meticulous scholarship, lucid writing and sharp judgement, this is an outstanding book.' Bill Nasson, University of Cape Town

    'In this vivid, arresting and very well-documented work, Richard Price offers an interpretation of a neglected episode in imperial history. As well as a specific locale and a remarkable cast of characters, he illumines aspects of empire that have applied far more generally: its frequent utopianism and fragility, and the disparity that always exists between metropolitan ideals and the violence and compromise of the frontier.' Linda Colley, Princeton University

    'Many have sought to describe the forging of an imperial culture in nineteenth-century Britain. Richard Price's brilliant idea was to get out of England and look where the bodies are buried - on the brutal frontiers of expanding empire. His riveting account of interactions between missionaries, British officials and Xhosa chiefs in South Africa charts the process by which the Empire defined its new subject peoples, ignoring any evidence that stood in the way. Price offers an instructive, perceptive, sad riposte to those who look nostalgically back to a 'liberal empire' that never was.' Norman Etherington, University of Western Australia

    'Richard Price's Making Empire is a fine critical account of one key part of the global process of empire-building, in 19th-century Africa.' Stephen Howe, The Independent

    'This book is a brilliant entry point for anyone who wants to see how imperial rule in Africa was established … Characters leap out; their absurd antics are sometimes pure slapstick. But this is no Carry On Up the Cape. In the scale of suffering unleashed by this power struggle, it is more like Shakespearean tragedy. At times, the folly of man is overwhelming.' Joanna Lewis, The Times Higher Education Supplement

    '…an innovative study of how imperial power operated in practice through an emerging missionary culture (itself reshaped by the experience) and a colonial voice. There is much in the book that teachers could use in the classroom especially the stories that Price uses to establish this case. This is a well written and cogently argued work that I thoroughly recommend.' The Historical Association

    'Where this books shines is in demonstrating the intricate formation of colonial knowledge and the role of the colonized in its creation.' American Historical Review

    '… a most impressive book … a vivid and detailed account which brings out the drama in the story and combines skilful narrative with insightful analysis.' The Times Literary Supplement

    '… masterful, and contributes significantly to our understanding of the building of empire and imperial culture at its edges, and of the people inexorably caught up in the process …' Journal of African History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521718196
    • length: 412 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 153 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.67kg
    • contains: 17 b/w illus. 5 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface: intentions and purposes
    1. Encounters in empire
    2. The making of missionary culture
    3. Observation, engagement and optimism
    4. Cultural encounters: the destabilization of missionary culture
    5. Missionaries encounter the Chiefs
    6. The closing of the missionary mind
    7. Creating colonial knowledge
    8. Meetings, ceremonies and display
    9. Empire as democracy
    10. Empire and liberalism
    11. The destruction of the Xhosa Chiefs
    12. The trials of the Chiefs
    13. Postscript: endings and beginnings.

  • Author

    Richard Price, University of Maryland, College Park
    Richard Price is Professor and Chair at the Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park. His previous publications include Labour in British Society 1780–1980 (1986) and British Society 1680–1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change (1999).


    • Awarded the 2009 Albion Prize by the North American Conference of British Studies for the 'Best Book on British Studies since 1800'

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