Featuring essays written by the influential historian Antoinette Burton since the mid-1990s, Empire in Question traces the development of a particular, contentious strand of modern British history, the "new imperial history," through the eyes of a scholar who helped to shape the field. In her teaching and writing, Burton has insisted that the vectors of imperial power run in multiple directions, argued that race must be incorporated into history writing, and emphasized that gender and sexuality are critical dimensions of imperial history. Empire in Question includes Burton's groundbreaking critiques of British historiography, as well as essays in which she brings theory to bear on topics from Jane Eyre to nostalgia for colonial India. Burton's autobiographical introduction describes how her early encounters with feminist and postcolonial critique led to her convictions that we must ask who counts as a subject of imperial history, and that we should maintain a healthy skepticism regarding the claims to objectivity that shape much modern history writing. In the coda, she candidly reflects on shortcomings in her own thinking and in the new imperial history, and she argues that British history must be repositioned in relation to world history. Much of Burton's writing emerged from her teaching; Empire in Question is meant to engage students and teachers in debates about how to think about British imperialism in light of contemporary events.
Antoinette Burton is Professor of History and Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has written and edited many books, including The Postcolonial Careers of Santha Rama Rau and After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation, both also published by Duke University Press.
Foreword / Mrinalini Sinha xi Preface. A Note on the Logic of the Volume xvii Acknowledgments xix Introduction. Imperial Optics: Empire Histories, Interpretive Methods 1 Part I. Home and Away: Mapping Imperial Cultures 1. Rules of Thumb: British History and "Imperial Culture" in Nineteenth-Century and Twentieth-Century Britain (1994) 27 2. Who Needs the Nation? Interrogating "British" History (1997) 41 3. Thinking beyond the Boundaries: Empire, Feminism, and the Domains of History (2001) 56 4. Deja Vu All over Again (2002) 68 5. When Was Britain? Nostalgia for the Nation at the End of the "American Century" (2003) 77 6. Archive Stories: Gender in the Making of Imperial and Colonial Histories (2004) 94 7. Gender, Colonialism, and Feminist Collaboration (2008, with Jean Allman) 106 Part II. Theory into Practice: Doing Critical Imperial History 8. Fearful Bodies into Disciplined Subjects: Pleasure, Romance, and the Family Drama of Colonial Reform in Mary Carpenter's Six Months in India (1995) 123 9. Contesting the Zenana: The Mission to Make "Lady Doctors for India," 1874-75 (1996) 151 10. Recapturing Jane Eyre: Reflections on Historicizing the Colonial Encounter in Victorian Britain (1996) 174 11. From Child Bride to "Hindoo Lady": Rukhmabai and the Debate on Sexual Respectability of Imperial Britain (1998) 184 12. Tongues United: Lord Salisbury's "Black Man" and the Boundaries of Imperial Democracy (2000) 214 13. India Inc.?: Nostalgia, Memory, and the Empire of Things (2001) 241 14. New Narratives of Imperial Politics in the Nineteenth Century (2006) 257 Coda. Empire of/and the World?: The Limits of British Imperialism 15. Getting Outside of the Global: Repositioning British Imperialism in World History 275 Afterword / C. A. Bayly 293 Notes 303 Index 381