Chapter Ten

Gender history and postcolonial history

This chapter examines some of the most dramatic extensions of history’s subject matter. Fifty years ago women were ignored, and Third World countries were treated from a narrowly Western perspective. Today, women’s and gender history is regarded as central to the understanding of the past. Meanwhile postcolonial historians are not only developing histories of Africa and Asia ‘from below’, but are insisting that the history of the former colonial powers be reassessed from the perspective of the colonized.

Placing gender history and postcolonial history in the same chapter may seem an odd procedure – even a demeaning one if it suggests that women and Third World societies can be lumped together as marginal add-ons. My treatment of them should dispel any such impression. The reason for considering them together is that they raise comparable opportunities and problems for historians. Both aspire to give a voice to huge constituencies that previously had no place in the historical record; and in doing so, both have thrown up challenges to what historians do, critiquing their methods and even the validity of their practice. Women’s history and postcolonial history not only represent an incremental enlargement of the range of historical study; they have the potential to modify the character of the discipline as a whole.


Women’s history

That outcome seemed highly unlikely when women’s history was first formulated during the 1970s. As described in Chapter 1, women’s history emerged as a feature of Women’s Liberation. It was part of a broad feminist strategy to contest the masculinist assumptions of academic knowledge. The pioneers of women’s history were not only curious about the lives of women in the past; they understood that reclaiming those lives was essential to a fully formed women’s consciousness in the present. Part of the required political energy was generated by studies of women’s daily lives that highlighted their subordination to men. History provided some of the most compelling evidence for the centuries-long existence of patriarchy, and awareness of the extent of patriarchy was central to consciousness-raising. The other source of political energy was the lives of those women who had taken action to resist the political and social oppression of their day. Explicitly feminist organizations, like the suffragists and suffragettes of Edwardian Britain, were an obvious focus. More surprising was the role found to have been played by women in organizations like Owenism and Chartism, which have gone down in history as masculine preserves.1 The effect of such studies was to demonstrate that women had a history, not only in a separate strand, but as an integral element of ‘mainstream’ history.


Robert Owen (1771–1858) was a Welsh industrialist whose experiments in running his spinning mill at New Lanark in Scotland along humanitarian and co-operative lines led him to found the Grand National Consolidated Trades’ Union to represent the entire skilled working class. The union was killed off in 1834 when a group of farm labourers at Tolpuddle in Dorset was transported to Australia for swearing an oath of loyalty to it. However, Owen’s ideals were revived ten years later by a group of trade unionists in Rochdale, Lancashire, who founded the first Co-Operative movement, in which all members would sink their subscription into a central fund, which would be used to maintain a Co-Operative shop that could sell goods to members at lower prices than elsewhere. Co-Op shops are still found on the high street today.


A working-class political movement in the 1830s and 1840s. It derived its name from the People’s Charter, drawn up in 1838, which laid out a comprehensive set of proposals for the reform of Parliament.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Women’s Liberation movement led to the development of a feminist approach to history, which sought to bring out the contribution of women and the many ways in which they were held down by the male-dominated societies of the past. (Corbis/Bettmann)

In the course of assembling historical material supportive of feminist objectives, women’s historians touched the concerns of several established branches of history. Initially their impact was least in the field of political history, since until the twentieth century women had no standing in political systems. The principal impact of women’s history was on social history. This was an obvious consequence of the priority given by feminism to ordinary women’s lives, and the existing social history was on particularly weak ground in justifying its prevalent male-centred perspective. One example of the social emphasis of women’s history was its engagement with labour history. Accounting for the ebb and flow of women’s employment since the Industrial Revolution proved to be an illuminating angle on the workings of capitalism – whether the focus was on female spinners and weavers in the early Lancashire cotton mills or the munitions workers who substituted for men at the front during the First World War.2

It is with regard to the family that the social impact of women’s history has been greatest. Historians in the 1960s had conducted a rather narrow debate about household size and levels of fertility, mostly using quantitative analysis.3 Other scholars had studied the family through the lens of didactic literature – the homilies that have been written in every generation to advise couples how to behave towards each other and how to raise their children. The new focus on women drew attention to the internal dynamics of the family in terms of power, nurture and dependence. A variety of qualitative sources – court records, diaries, letters – were scoured for evidence, not of the statistical norm, but of life as it was actually experienced in specific families. Particularly striking has been the uncovering of the reality behind the ornamental ‘angel mother’ of Victorian family piety: she was more independent, more given to philanthropic work outside the home, and more likely to be in conflict with her husband than the popular stereotype suggests.4 As a result of this and other work, the whole realm of the private – as distinct from the public world of conventional history – is being brought within the scope of historical understanding.

angel mother

The image, often found in Victorian literature and popular culture, of a mother who is at once beautiful, caring, dutiful and obedient.

An early modern case-study

The book that best sums up this phase of women’s history is Olwen Hufton’s The Prospect Before Her (1995), an extraordinarily wide-ranging and learned survey of women in Europe from 1500 to 1800. It is structured around the defining phases of women’s life cycle from girlhood through marriage and motherhood to widowhood. Special attention is given to those who stood outside the conventional life story – single women, nuns, sex workers, and so on. Hufton’s book is social history on a grand scale, in which large generalizations are combined with vivid incidents in individual lives. Viewed critically as a piece of women’s history, the most important point about The Prospect Before Her is that the many historical contexts in which women lived during this period are fully mastered and deftly interwoven with the analysis. This is particularly true of religion: the Reformation and its profound consequences for all branches of Christianity are highlighted, in a way which for many readers brings home the historical distance between them and their Early Modern forebears.

Hufton’s work also raises the question of audience. The first forays in women’s history had been written for a readership that was not only female but feminist, in that it was looking for a politically relevant reading of the past. The Prospect Before Her is addressed more to the generality of historians. It not only contextualizes women’s past experience; it makes that experience manifestly part of the more familiar themes of the period, like poverty, domestic service and religious vocation. It is thus a major contribution to the social history of early modern Europe. In this respect Hufton was in tune with the younger generation of women’s historians who were coming to the fore during the 1980s and 1990s. They were less interested in raising feminist consciousness than in changing the terms on which the study of history was pursued.

Moving on from ‘women’s history’

As a mature historical practice women’s history is today characterized by three principles which together open the way for its integration into mainstream history. First, ‘woman’ is no longer seen as a single undifferentiated social category. Class, race and cultural beliefs about sexual difference have all had an immense influence on how women are perceived – and also on how they perceive themselves – and most historical work relates to specific groups rather than womanhood in general. This enhances the bearing of women’s history on social history, where these distinctions are central. Second, just as the category of ‘woman’ has been disaggregated, so too has the notion of a uniform and constant oppression by men. The term ‘patriarchy’ has been criticized as implying that sexual difference is the fundamental principle of stratification in human society, present in all periods and thus ‘outside’ history; by claiming to explain everything, it explains nothing. ‘Patriarchy’ can still usefully be used to denote sexual hierarchy in the household, particularly where men control a form of domestic production, as they did in pre-industrial Europe. But the record of the past shows immense variety in the extent of oppression, resistance, accommodation and convergence in relations between men and women, and the task of the historian is to explain this variation rather than subsume it under a universal principle of sexual oppression.5

Third and most challenging of all, women’s history has increasingly taken the history of men within its scope: not men in their traditional guise of genderless autonomous beings, but men in relation to the other half of humanity. This means that men are considered historically as sons and husbands, while in the public sphere men’s exclusion of women becomes a matter for investigation, instead of being taken for granted. As Jane Lewis has put it,

our understanding of the sex/gender system can never hope to be complete until we have a deliberate attempt to understand the total fabric of men’s worlds and the construction of masculinity.6

That last phrase stands for a very extensive historical agenda. History may have been a male monopoly for centuries, but understanding masculinity was not part of the project. As a result of work in this area, we now take for granted, for example, that the soldiers who manned the trenches in the First World War were motivated not just by the call of king and country, but by a code of masculinity instilled by school, juvenile literature and youth organizations.7


Gender history and relations between the sexes

These new directions in women’s history entail a change of name: gender history signals the aspiration to move beyond an exclusively women’s perspective to modify the writing of all history. It is by no means the only current within women’s history, but it holds out the greatest promise for the discipline as a whole. In current usage ‘gender’ means the social organization of sexual difference. It embodies the assumption that most of what passes for natural (or God-given) sexual difference is in fact socially and culturally constructed, and must therefore be understood as the outcome of historical process. (Of course it is that very confusion between nature and culture that has given stratification by gender such staying power, and has caused it to escape notice in much of the historical record.) The focus of gender history is less on the predicament of one sex than on the whole field of relations between the sexes. And this field includes not just the obvious points of contact such as marriage and sex, but all social relations and all political institutions which, on this view, are in varying degrees structured by gender: by the exclusion of women, by the polarization of masculine and feminine attributes, and so on. Men are no less constructed by gender than women are. Both men’s social power and their ‘masculine’ qualities can only be apprehended as aspects of a gender system: neither ‘natural’ nor constant, but defined by a shifting relation to the feminine. This perspective underlies recent writing on the tortuous evolution of the term ‘manliness’ since the early modern period, and the best work on the history of the family.8 Because both sexes can only be correctly understood in relational terms, the history of gender is conceptually equipped to attain a fully comprehensive social reach and to feature in any serious theory of social structure and social change.

Gender history and Marxist theory

Comparisons with Marxist history are illuminating. Gender history has experienced the same tension between the demands of historical explanation and the politics of emancipation as the history of class has done. With its potential for a comprehensive social analysis, gender history also promises at the very least to make good some of the deficiencies of Marxist theory. Marxist historians are second to none in analysing production, but their theory gives much less weight to reproduction – whether viewed as a biological event or a process of socialization. More broadly, gender history has the effect of collapsing the rigid distinction between the public and private spheres which has informed almost all historical writing. That this distinction may have obscured the true complexity of economic and social life in the past is strongly indicated by Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall’s Family Fortunes (1987). Their central thesis is that in early nineteenth-century England one of the key objectives of the burgeoning business world was to support the family and domesticity – and conversely that the approved domestic traits of middle-class men (sobriety, sense of duty and so on) answered to the requirements of entrepreneurial and professional life. In work of this kind, the historical relationship of gender and class begins to be uncovered in all its intricate particularity.


Gender and the cultural history of meaning

Thus far I have characterized gender as a tool for deepening our understanding of the social structures of the past. But gender is not only a structural question. It touches on subjectivity and identity in profound ways. These perspectives are best considered as the province of the cultural turn. They do not have the same political resonance as the classic feminist agenda of conscious-ness-raising, patriarchy and resistance. Indeed the popularity of cultural approaches to women’s history reflects in many cases a disenchantment with political feminism – as having either gone far enough or being doomed to failure in attempting to achieve more. The cultural turn is also in tune with broader contemporary changes in gender and sexuality. Sexual difference is today seen less as a biological given, and increasingly as a matter of personal choice, mediated by culture. Once the traditional binary distinction between male and female is modified to take account of the gender diversity that actually exists, the articulation of masculinities and femininities becomes more and more a matter of psychology and culture. Last, the cultural turn bears on the vexed question of primary evidence – always a problem for historians bent on recovering a hidden past. The cultural turn makes a virtue of the paucity of documentation by reading the texts as ‘discourse’: not imprisoned within a single meaning, but open to diverse – and even subversive – readings.

The cultural creation of gender

In practical terms, this shift means two things. First, if gender difference is not principally a matter of nature or instinct, it must be instilled. Parents may experience this as an individual task, but it is essentially cultural in character, since those who are charged with childcare operate within certain cultural understandings of sexual difference and personality development. Gender, in short, is knowledge. Until the very recent past, sexual difference was naturalized (and simplified) into predetermined scripts which most people did not question. Those forms of knowledge took a variety of forms: explicit knowledge about the body, as in sex manuals such as Aristotle’s Masterpiece (repeatedly reprinted in England throughout the eighteenth century and beyond); or heavily moralized teaching about sexual character, as in nineteenth-century writings about the proper lady; or again, the assumptions about sexual difference that pervade literature in both its elite and popular forms. Recent historians have given close attention to all this material, tracking the contradictions and subtle shifts of emphasis against the bedrock assumptions that remained firm for generations.9

The second dimension of the cultural approach to gender takes up the issue of difference. All social identities work partly by a process of exclusion. We are defined as much by what we are not, as by what we are. Often the negative stereotyping of those beyond the pale is just as powerful as the corresponding belief in what members have in common. In the case of sexual difference, defining the self in relation to ‘the other’ is particularly pronounced because the social consciousness of most young children is predicated on a fundamental distinction between male and female. All attributes can be mapped on to this binary opposition. Hence all gender definitions are relational, in the sense that they arise from interaction with the other sex and express assumptions about that sex: the enduring discourse of ‘effeminacy’ as a boundary for men’s behaviour bears ample witness to that. Discourse is vital to this process of ‘othering’, partly because binary structures are deeply embedded in language (good v. bad, black v. white, etc.), and partly because language registers this opposition between male and female in an endless variety of culturally specific forms. In psychoanalysis the tradition associated with Jacques Lacan also places prime emphasis on language as the means by which children acquire their sexed identities.10

Jacques Lacan (1901–81)

One of the most influential psychoanalysts of the twentieth century. A French Freudian, he developed a ‘structural psychoanalysis’ which explored the relationship between language, texts and the unconscious. He became a central theorist for the linguistic turn, and thus for an influential strand of cultural studies. Although Lacan had little to say about history, he has been drawn upon by psychoanalytic historians.

One field in which the discourse approach has proved particularly fruitful is the history of sexuality. As defined in recent work, this is a broader theme than might be imagined. It can be studied through the prism of medical knowledge, or as a set of legal definitions and prohibitions, reflected in the social mores of the day.11 The approach that has most resonance with contemporary sexual politics prioritizes the question of identity. At what point, for example, did men and women begin to categorize themselves – and each other – as ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’? And were these exclusive categories? The answers given by historians have become more complicated since the pioneering studies in the 1970s. Matt Houlbrook shows that in the first half of the twentieth century ‘queer London’ did not comprise a single homosexual identity. He draws on a range of vivid personal evidence to distinguish three types: the effeminate self-dramatizing ‘queen’, the discreet middle-class homosexual, and the working-class man who had sex with both women and men and regarded himself as ‘normal’. In the period covered by Houlbrook all homosexual acts were still against the law. The story he tells is as much concerned with evasion and entrapment as with self-discovery – a reminder that homophobia has deep historical roots.12

Gender and the new polarities of power

The fracturing of identity that is now found in gay history and other branches of gender history is a far cry from the earlier feminist emphasis on the common experience and common oppression summed up in ‘sisterhood.’ Once representation and discourse are given full play, ‘identity’ cannot be frozen at this macro-level; dissecting the complex web of meanings in which individuals situate themselves has the effect of breaking down these large categories by opening up fissures along lines of class, nation, ethnicity, region, age, sexuality and so on. The notion of women as a collectivity becomes hard to sustain. That does not mean, however, that gender has become drained of political content; instead gender history reflects a different kind of politics. Joan Scott argues strongly that a linguistic approach serves to expose the gender dimension of all power relations. Her argument hinges on two closely related propositions. First, gender is a structural (or ‘constitutive’) element of all social relationships, from the most intimate to the most impersonal, because there is always an assumption either of the exclusion of one sex, or of a carefully regulated (and usually unequal) relationship between the sexes. Second, gender is an important way in which relationships of power are signified in cultural terms.13 To take a recurrent case, the uncompromisingly ‘masculine’ terms in which war is referred to have for a very long time served to legitimate the sacrifice of life that young men are called upon to endure. In the Victorian era the idea of state-funded welfare was damned as ‘sentimentality’ – a feminine attribute – by its enemies.14 Many other comparable examples could be cited. Furthermore, these gendered meanings should not be seen as static or given, and an obvious task for politically informed analysis is to trace their reinterpretation and contestation in different contexts. Gender history of the cultural variety may be resistant to the solid collectivities of old, but it has much to contribute to an understanding of how power is articulated in personal and social relations

This point can be illustrated with reference to the scholarly career of Judith Walkowitz. Her first book, published in 1980, analysed prostitution in Victorian society through the prism of class and gender: it documented the double sexual standard of the day, the material exploitation of the prostitutes, and the political strategies of those who wished to repeal the draconian legislation that regulated the trade. Its political sympathies were plain – indeed the help of the Women’s Liberation movement is explicitly acknowledged.15 Twelve years later Walkowitz followed this up with City of Dreadful Delight (1992), a study of sexual scandals and sexual discourses in London during the 1880s. Within the perspective of the earlier book, child prostitution and Jack the Ripper – the main subjects here – would have invited a materialist analysis of the vice trade and the power relations between procurers, prostitutes and clients. These matters are not ignored, but Walkowitz is now less interested in what happened than in what was representedas happening. The book’s subtitle, ‘Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London’, accurately reflects her concern with which stories prevailed and why. But, as she emphasizes, this is a deeply political question, since popular notions of sexual character and sexual morality were contained within a regulatory discourse, of which the newspaper press was merely one element. City of Dreadful Delight may lack the political bite of the earlier book, but it is a fine study of the cultural processes that make some gender discourses hegemonic, while marginalizing others.


Excessively harsh.

Jack the Ripper

The nickname current at the time and since for the perpetrator of a series of extremely brutal murders of prostitutes in Whitechapel, in the East End of London, in 1888. Speculation about the identity of the murderer, which has led to accusations against, among others, a famous painter and a member of the royal family, has spawned a virtual industry of ‘ripperologists’. The fascination the case continues to exert is as interesting to historians as the original murders themselves.

The notorious ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders of 1888 provide a case study not only of crime and prostitution in late Victorian London but also of the collective cultural mentality that found the murders so fascinating. (Topfoto/Topham/Picturepoint)

There can, then, be no simple answer to the question ‘What has gender history contributed to the discipline as a whole?’ Writing about gender has become integral to both social history and cultural history, as Walkowitz’s trajectory suggests. It is no longer acceptable for historians to write about ‘the people’ or ‘the working class’ without dealing explicitly with women. And they are unlikely to do so without closely qualifying the category of ‘woman’ according to the specific historical context. As Susan Pedersen has put it,

If cultural history … has accomplished anything, it has been to call into question the assumption that one can evaluate gender relations in different societies by a single standard.16

Equally, questions of cultural identity are complex and contentious; but gender is always part of the mix – not as a ready-made theory, but as an open-ended cluster of issues to do with the experience and representation of gendered lives. Last, as a metaphorical language gender has been taken up by political historians, thus enriching our understanding of political culture and its purchase on the political community.


Postcolonialism: a new paradigm

Postcolonial history, like gender history, takes as its starting point the marginalization or dispossession of a large category of people in the past. But its scope is much wider. While global or comparative studies are not unknown in gender history, it has usually been conceptualized within national boundaries, and often at the level of the local community. Postcolonial history, on the other hand, is intrinsically global. Local studies abound, but they are premised on the salience of global relations: not in the anodyne sense so often conveyed by analysts of contemporary globalization, but in terms of the relations of power and subordination that account for the parlous condition of so many Third World societies. The 500-year long colonial project of the West is seen to have impoverished and humiliated those societies. Rescuing their history from the patronizing stereotypes of Westerners is a precondition for their emancipation. But for postcolonial scholars a question-mark hangs over the academic discourse of history as the West has understood it, for historians were deeply implicated in the silencing of non-Western traditions. The outcome has been some disturbing critiques in which major doubts have been aired about the validity of history as a scholarly pursuit.

About the longstanding exclusion of colonized societies from the scope of historical study there can be no doubt. To go no further back than the emergence of the historical profession in the nineteenth century, Ranke confined his huge output of historical writing to the European sub-continent. His Universal History, on which he was working when he died in 1886, was a history of Europe from the last centuries of the Roman Empire. His successors and imitators worked within a national frame which sometimes included the empire builders of the past, but not the societies on which they preyed. Marx had broader interests. He wrote perceptive commentaries on events in India, but India itself he regarded as being outside history because its mode of production lacked an internal dynamic of change: in order to share the progressive development of Western societies, it needed to be conquered and administered by one of those societies, which is why Marx regarded British rule in India as broadly positive. At a theoretical level at least, it could not be denied that India and China had a history, since there was evidently some parallel between their sophisticated state structures and those of Europe. But Africa was denied even this qualification for historical study because it was wrongly assumed to have evolved no state structures at all.

The ending of formal colonial rule was one of the most striking features of world history in the twentieth century. Within the space of twenty years (1947–66) most of the countries of South Asia and Africa became independent. (The only precedent was the emancipation of the American colonies held by Britain, Spain and Portugal between 1776 and 1822). However, independence brought equality in only the most formal sense: in many countries the dependence and impoverishment that had characterized colonial status intensified during the first decades of self-rule. At the same time, sovereign peoples could not be patronized in quite such a brutal fashion as they had been under colonial rule. Their leaders were in many cases highly educated and well versed in Western thought. One of the priorities of these states was the development of a modern education system, including entirely new institutions of higher education. Historical research was conducted in the universities of Third World countries in order to furnish the schools with a history curriculum appropriate to an independent nation: one very practical reason why the time was ripe for a reappraisal of the colonial relationship and its enduring legacy.

But the implications of that reappraisal are complex. At first glance ‘postcolonial’ is simply a convenient chronological marker, designating our age as one in which colonialism has been dismantled; it could even be taken to mean that the colonial era lies in the past and should remain there while we focus on the future. That is not how the label ‘postcolonial’ is interpreted by the scholars who have adopted it for themselves. Their contention is that colonialism used its control over the resources of learning and culture to establish forms of knowledge that not only gave Europeans a distorted picture of colonial societies, but were internalized by the colonized themselves. Those distortions persist, inhibiting the development of ex-colonies to this day. For this reason the superficial temporal reading of the term ‘postcolonial’ is rejected: colonialism has not really ended but continues in less formal and more covert ways (sometimes referred to as ‘neo-colonialism’). A still more radical strand of postcolonialism maintains that because Western learning served so long as a means of subordinating colonial societies, its intellectual standing – embracing the entire Enlightenment tradition – is fatally compromised. At this point postcolonialism moves beyond the colonial world and becomes – alongside Postmodernism – a further strand in the negative critique of the Western intellectual tradition.

Theorists from the Third World and the West

Postcolonialism sounds like the authentic voice of the Third World, and in one sense it is. The leading lights – Edward Said, Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak – come or came from the Middle East or South Asia. But – with the notable exception of Said – their writings are abstract and opaque (not least to readers in their countries of origin). All three are (or were) employed by American universities. Furthermore, despite the rejection of European thought that is sometimes proclaimed by postcolonial scholars, their theories are not home-grown, but are derived from some of the most high-profile Western intellectuals. But it is the rebels and the radicals who have inspired them, rather than the liberals or even the Marxists. Much the most important influence is Foucault. As explained in Chapter 7, Foucault regarded all discourses as forms of power/knowledge, which served to confine people within specific ways of understanding the world and their place in it. According to Foucault, language is not just one variant of power; it is the most important kind of power. Because the users of language are not aware of being constrained, they mistakenly suppose that it expresses the world as it is. Edward Said, the most influential postcolonial theorist, applied Foucault’s thinking to Western writing about the Arab world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Said was a literary scholar rather than a historian, but his path-breaking Orientalism (1978) is deeply versed in historical representations of the Middle East. His analysis was based on the idea that when one culture seeks to represent another, the power function of discourse is intensified because it is attempting to pin down the Other – a cultural construct perceived as a pathological opposite of one’s own culture. Repeated over many decades, the rendering of the Arab Other hardened into a set of essentialist judgements which Said called ‘Orientalism’. It permeated the views of ‘experts’ on the Arab world, administrators posted to colonial territories in the Middle East, and – most insidiously – many Arabs educated in the Western tradition who were encouraged to reject their own culture. Orientalism gave imperialists the confidence to dominate, and it undermined the cultural resources of the colonized. Said summed up Orientalism as a ‘science of imperialism’, his goal being to ‘reduce the effects of imperialist shackles on thought and human relations’.17

Western portrayals of Oriental life emphasized its otherness by displaying women as sex objects and sex slaves. The Women of Algiers (1834) by Eugene Delacroix is a relatively restrained depiction of a harem. (Bridgeman Art Library/Louvre, Paris, France/Giraudon)


Race and racism

One of those shackles was the concept of ‘race’. During the colonial era racist ideologies were developed to explain the supposed inferiority of ‘native’ peoples – both their indigenous culture and their inability to assimilate Western culture. ‘Race’ was treated as fixed and biologically determined, which logically meant that Western domination should last indefinitely; indeed some racist writers argued that white and black were on different evolutionary paths. Highly derogatory stereotypes of other races served in turn to sustain a flattering self-image of the British – or French or German – ‘race.’ The postcolonial reaction has taken two antithetical forms. Minorities with a strong ethnic identity have constructed what might be called a ‘reverse discourse’; they embrace the concept of ‘race’ because the term brings biological descent and culture together in a powerful amalgam that maximizes group cohesion and emphasizes distance from other groups. Among black people in America and Britain there is considerable support for Afrocentrism – the belief in an absolute sense of ethnic difference and in the transmission of an authentic cultural tradition from Africa to black people of the modern diaspora. It is no accident that this way of thinking is strongest among people of African descent: it is an understandable reaction to centuries of enslavement which was an assault on their cultural identity as well as their human dignity. But Afrocentrism is based on ahistorical assumptions. It is as essentialist as the white forms of racism against which it is mobilized. Very few nations or racial groups have ever been ethnically homogeneous. The societies of the African diaspora have been in close – and sometimes intimate – contact with white communities for five centuries, and their character has been deeply influenced by that contact (as has that of white society). The formation of racial and national identities is never a once-and-for-all event, but an unfolding process.18

Instead of making a mirror-image out of colonial racism, a more radical approach is to dispute the premise of race altogether, and this is what the mainstream of postcolonial thinking sets out to do. Biology is deemed irrelevant, because the physical differences between races are either non-existent or superficial. What may appear to be ‘racial’ difference is the outcome of cultural adaptation, including contact with other cultures. The significant point about colonial discourse was that it seized on these specificities as evidence of an unbridgeable gulf between white and black. ‘Race’ itself became the centerpiece of colonial discourse, bolstering the self-confidence of the colonist and marginalizing the colonized. Demonstrating the social construction of race in this way is all the more important because colonial-style racism has not disappeared. It still mars relations between the West and Third World countries, as well as the white perception of black communities in the former colonial metropoles such as Britain.


‘Metropole’ used to mean the same as ‘metropolis’. In academic writing it denotes an imperialist nation that has been at the centre of a global network of trade and exploitation (for example, Britain and the United States).

One of the reasons why postcolonialism has proved a rich vein for historians is the different emphases within the theory. Much has been made of some of the contradictions in Said’s work. There is something uncompromising – even rigid – about his rendering of the West’s cultural dominance over the East. Orientalism is presented as an all-powerful fiction which eliminated other cultural responses on the part of Westerners. But as Homi Bhabha has pointed out, within a colonial relationship there was room for cultural adaptation, as each side was drawn to traits of the other through desire or ambition: for him hybridity is the key to the colonial encounter.19 The boundaries of colony and metropole were porous, making for a single field. A related issue is how all-powerful colonial discourses should be taken to be. Said inscribes a binary distinction of powerful/powerless on the colonizer and the colonized, allowing little scope for the latter to make responses that are not choreographed by the oppressor. Other writers recognize that the colonial subject could manipulate the discursive categories of the West, even turning them to account as tools of resistance, with the result that colonial rule was more precarious than it appeared.20 Much here turns on how we see the indigenous elite who straddled traditional and Western culture: were they creatures of colonial discourse or potentially autonomous actors? At the same time, this debate tends to operate at a high level of abstraction. It is rare to find a postcolonial theorist who acknowledges a role for individual or even collective agency.


Historians and postcolonialism

How then have historians made use of a body of theory that in some ways is quite antithetical to the habitual practice of their discipline? We can begin by looking at how historians responded more broadly to the ending of the colonial era. Africa is the prime example, since nowhere else had the colonial ignorance of the indigenous past been so profound. The 1960s and 1970s saw an impressive output of scholarly works of African history, written partly by African scholars trained in the West, and partly by young Western scholars who identified with the aspirations of African independence. They set themselves to confound the twin assumptions that Africa had no history apart from the activities of outsiders, and no historical evidence that might substantiate such a history. In fact the documentary resources proved much richer than anyone had supposed. The European trading companies and missionary societies, which had been in contact with Africa since the fifteenth century and by the nineteenth century had penetrated deep into the interior, were found to have extensive records; these included close observation of local chiefdoms on whose support the incomers depended, as well as descriptions of African culture and society. In the Islamic regions of the Sahel, the western Sudan and the East African coast, where the frontiers of literacy extended far into black Africa, there are local chronicles dating back in some cases to the sixteenth century, and even – in a few states such as the Sokoto caliphate of northern Nigeria – a nucleus of administrative records.

Sokoto caliphate

The most powerful Islamic state in West Africa in the nineteenth century, centred on what is now northern Nigeria. It expanded by means of jihad (holy war). Sokoto was brought under British rule at the beginning of the twentieth century, but its ruler retained considerable authority during the colonial era.

Most exciting of all was the development of a methodology for collecting and interpreting oral tradition. This was a universal feature of pre-literate societies, and conversely destined to wither away as literacy spread. The first generation of independence was therefore a privileged moment in capitalizing on ‘the heritage of the ears’ (see below, Chapter 11). Pre-colonial political entities like the medieval states of Ghana and Zimbabwe now emerged into the light of history, and the early stages of incorporation of the African interior into the overseas commerce were reconstructed. The colonial period had been studied by historians, but from the perspective of the colonizers, as the story of development and of statesmanlike preparation for independence. Now it featured the theme of resistance – armed resistance to the initial colonial occupiers, and political mobilization against the colonial state during the approach to independence. But historians also focused on more accommodating responses, particularly peasant initiatives that were intended to support the beginnings of a consumer economy.21


West African state that flourished between the ninth and eleventh centuries. The basis of its prosperity was the trans-Saharan trade, particularly in gold. The medieval state lay well to the north of the present-day Ghana.


Central African state that flourished between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. It is famous for its technically accomplished dry-stone architecture, notably the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. The modern state of Zimbabwe takes its name from its medieval predecessor.

This pioneer work in African history was largely innocent of theory. Its practitioners were for the most part confident that the well-tried methods of Western historiography would serve them well. Colonial records required nothing more than the habitual scepticism of the archival researcher. Even the novel resource of oral tradition attracted comparatively little theoretical analysis at this stage.22

Subaltern Studies

It was in India during the 1980s that postcolonial theory made a decided impact on historians for the first time. This was the achievement of the Subaltern Studies group, led by Ranajit Guha. Initially its point of reference was Marxist history, especially the ‘history from below’ associated with E.P. Thompson. The orientation of the group was defined by a profound rejection of the nationalist elite in India – men like Nehru and the leaders of the Indian National Congress who had channelled popular resistance to the British Raj and had then inherited control of the state apparatus in 1947. Ideologically, the Subaltern historians claimed there was little to choose between the nationalist politicians and the historians who chronicled their achievements. Both belonged to the ‘bourgeois-nationalist elite’, far removed from the interests and the attitudes of ordinary Indians. Hence the choice of the term ‘subaltern:’ it was drawn from the Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci to denote disempowered social groups. The task of radical historians was to shift the focus from the professional politician to the subaltern, and in particular to reveal the subaltern’s place at the heart of popular nationalism. This aspiration was all the more convincing because the frequency of popular disturbances from 1919 in British India was undeniable: what was lacking was a historical account that went beyond elite response and elite manipulation.

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964)

India’s first Prime Minister, from 1947 to 1962.

Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937)

A leading figure in the Italian Communist Party after the First World War, he was imprisoned by the Fascist regime of Mussolini and died in prison. His immense influence stems from his theoretical writings, in which he developed new ways of understanding popular political culture and the pre-conditions of revolution.

Framed in this way, Subaltern Studies was a predictable ‘people’s history’ reaction against nationalist historiography (though it is worth pointing out that in Africa the radical rejection of nationalism was much weaker). Very quickly, however, the Subaltern historians came under the influence of Said and other postcolonial theorists. The emphasis shifted from material to cultural power, as more and more attention was given to deconstructing what the colonial authorities had written in such profusion. Part of the reason for doing so was to demonstrate how much of what (even now) counts as objective knowledge represented a discursive imposition by the colonial regime: in India the classic instance is ‘caste’ (in Africa it is ‘tribe’). But the main purpose of this close textual study was to make up for the silencing of the poor that had occurred throughout the colonial period and which (it was said) was replicated in the writings of the first generation of post-independence historians. Peasants and workers would be brought into the light of history despite the extent of popular illiteracy under the Raj: ‘the voice of the subaltern’ would be heard. Guha and his colleagues strove to overcome the paucity of subaltern writing by reading the voluminous government sources against the grain. Guha’s own work on peasant insurgency in colonial India suggests that a partial restoration of the peasant voice is possible, based on official eavesdropping or ‘intercepted discourse.’ As he explains, government counter-insurgency compulsively recorded whatever might have a bearing on rebel activities – be it rumours in the bazaar, slogans shouted in the street, or incidental detail in court evidence.23


The postcolonial reappraisal of British history

Postcolonialism originated in a determination to change the conceptual map by which Third World cultures were studied. But colonialism was a two-sided relationship that also changed the culture and mentality of the colonizing society. In the past this theme received even less attention from historians than the colonial impact overseas. In the British case there is a long tradition of regarding the empire as ‘out there’ – a destination for British enterprise and conquest, but without a significant imprint on metropolitan life. Postcolonial theory subjects that assumption to critical scrutiny, based on the proposition that colony and metropole were parts of a single system, with influences flowing in both directions. As Antoinette Burton puts it, the empire was ‘not just a phenomenon “out there”, but a fundamental and constitutive part of English culture and national identity at home’.24 It follows that the end of empire makes Britain – no less than its former dependencies – a postcolonial society.

So far from being ‘out there’ the empire was integral to British life for 300 years, and became more obviously so as it neared its end. This was not just a matter of registering the proportion of pink on the world map (a universal experience for British schoolchildren). Edward Said maintained that the literary canon of nineteenth and twentieth-century England was permeated by an imperial consciousness (most controversially in Jane Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park). But the nub of the argument concerns the experiences that were shared by the British people as a whole. By 1900 most families had kin living in the colonies; virtually everyone consumed colonial products whose provenance was carefully labelled; adventure fiction and boys’ stories were staged against a colonial backdrop. These were the constituents of an imperial culture. Indeed, the argument has been advanced that it was colonialism that made it possible for British people to think of themselves (as distinct from their English or Scottish selves) as a nation.25The converse of that proposition would be that Britishness is in radical need of redefining now that the empire is no more. It is hardly surprising, then, that debates around this issue feature not just in postcolonial history, but in polemic intended for a wider audience, notably in the work of Paul Gilroy.26

Mansfield Park

Novel by Jane Austen, published in 1814. Like all Austen’s novels, the book concerns the marriage prospects of young ladies of the propertied class. It is not a novel about the empire. At the same time, it is made clear that the family wealth is based on slavery plantations in the West Indies, and Sir Thomas Bertram’s prolonged absence from the family home is explained by the need to attend to his affairs in Antigua.

Said’s work on Orientalism portrayed a unified West imposing unified discourse on the East. Even at the cultural level (with which he was exclusively concerned) this now looks like an oversimplification. Without downplaying the violence and authoritarianism of empire, postcolonial historians emphasize the two-way flow of influences, not all of which ministered directly to power. As Catherine Hall has explained, the histories of ‘metropolis’ and ‘peripheries’ do not follow a simple binary model.27 In her bookCivilising Subjects (2002), she treats Jamaica and Birmingham as interlocking – and equally important – sites of empire in the mid-nineteenth century. Only with this double focus, Hall argues, can we understand both British popular attitudes towards the empire and the political culture of the ex-slaves in the Caribbean; and she gives special weight to the missionaries who were the main channel of communication between Jamaica and Birmingham. Colonial realities sometimes impinged on the metropolitan imagination in unexpected ways. In the 1790s Mary Wollstonecraft bolstered the case for women’s rights by drawing an analogy with plantation slavery (there were more than eighty references to slavery in her celebrated Vindication of the Rights of Women).28 In a less constructive way, colonial ideas of race were superimposed on social distinctions back home – as in the ‘racialisation’ of the London poor in the mid-Victorian period.29 Most striking of all was the profound cultural adjustment made by all immigrant communities living in Britain, which suggests that Bhabha’s notion of hybridity has even more purchase in metropolitan society than it does in the colonies.

the ‘racialisation’ of the London poor

In the second half of the nineteenth century, educated people often compared the poor to the benighted heathen overseas. The implication was not only that the poor were culturally and morally inadequate, but that they belonged to a separate race.

The debate about the connections between Britishness and empire is complicated by the fact that different sectors of the British population had – and have – radically divergent memories of empire. Partly this is a dimension of the ‘three kingdoms’ problematic: the Scots and Irish were ubiquitous in the colonies, while the levers of power lay in London with an English-dominated government. But the key issue concerns the colonial immigrants who settled in Britain. Large-scale black immigration only began in the 1950s, just as the empire was being dismantled, but people of African and Asian descent have been continuously present in Britain since at least the sixteenth century, not just as curiosities but in sufficient numbers to take their place in urban society, especially in London and the major ports. The fact that many of them were slaves introduced into the metropole colonial relationships and colonial racial stereotypes that have endured long after the ending of slavery. As the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007 showed, slavery still touches a raw nerve in Britain: for many white people it has been subsumed in a self-regarding narrative of national philanthropy, which addresses the end of slavery rather than its long history. For many black people, on the other hand, slavery and the slave trade should be treated as another Holocaust, with an implied duty of compensation. Seldom heard in this debate is the voice of black people in the past, for the familiar reason that they feature so little in the primary sources: few were literate, and fewer still had access to the public sphere (hence the intense attention given to the handful of eighteenth-century black propagandists against slavery).

West Indian emigrants aboard the SS Empire Windrush (1948), the first ship to bring a large group of West Indians to Britain. The new arrivals had high expectations of ‘the mother country’, which were rudely shattered by popular hostility towards them. (Getty Images/Popperfoto)


Problems and obstacles

The difficulties inherent in finding a historical voice for the subaltern are real enough. An important strand in postcolonialism has responded by questioning the validity of the academic discipline that has framed their efforts hitherto: if historical research cannot yield the desired perspective, then ‘history’ itself must be found wanting. From a subaltern perspective the charge-sheet is compelling. An obvious point is that during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many historians took part in the Orientalist project, and Said argued that in his own day there were influential historians whose Oriental expertise was placed in the service of Western (particularly American) imperialism. But there is a broader point to be made with regard to the structural imbalance between Western history and all other histories – what Dipesh Chakrabarty calls the problem of ‘asymmetric ignorance’.30 Historians in the Third World are expected to know European history, whereas most of their counterparts in Europe are ignorant of the history of Asia and Africa. The implication is that the ‘grand narratives’ of the Western experience – nationalism, democracy, capitalism and so on – are the benchmark against which other societies should be measured. No one makes the reverse evaluation.

There are also troubling questions to be asked about the colonial archive, which includes extensive documentation in the former colonies and also the national archives of the metropolitan countries. Not only did these archives reflect the prejudice and ignorance of colonial officials; they were instruments of rule, intended to mould social reality to the designs of the colonial regime: no amount of ‘reading against the grain’ can take us into the world of the subaltern. In a challenging article, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’, Spivak drew on the well-studied Hindu practice of sati, which placed on widows the duty of throwing themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands. Historical research has documented in detail the debates within the British administration that led to the official proscription of sati in 1833, as well as the arguments mounted for its retention by patriarchal traditionalists, but the voice of the victims remains obdurately silent.31

At the root of the postcolonial critique lies the relationship between academic history and the nation-state. Because historians have generally observed the boundaries of states, even when they have not been chronicling the history of the state itself, their work has had the effect of validating the nation-state as the pre-eminent category of social organization and political identity. If critique along these lines is current in Britain, it is still more pertinent in a country like India, where the effect of a focus on ‘the nation’ is to exclude huge social categories from the agenda of history. As Chakrabarty has put it, history is complicit ‘in assimilating to the projects of the modern state all other possibilities of human solidarity’.32 The secularism of Western historiography is open to attack in comparable terms, as an ideological position that is manifestly unable to engage with the spirituality of Indian cultures. Some postcolonial scholars would go further still, dismissing the universal claims of the Enlightenment tradition as an apologia for the West against all its Others.33 In theory at least, the way is open not only for authentically Third World histories, but for entirely new perspectives on the West – what Chakrabarty calls the ‘provincializing of Europe’.

Acknowledging the cultural turn

To read Dipesh Chakrabarty on postcolonial history or Joan Scott on gender history is to doubt the future of the discipline of history as it is practised by most scholars today. These writers (and others like them) challenge the traditional academic ideals of scholarly detachment, authentic re-creation and empirically grounded analysis, and they roundly attack those who subscribe to them. The tone is similar to that adopted by Postmodernists, and that is no accident. The more radical views of gender and postcoloniality that I have described are compatible with Postmodernism: indeed Joan Scott’s theoretical writings are generally placed under that heading. However it should not be assumed that these radical critiques will become the received wisdom of the profession in the future. Working historians for the most part shrink from the full implications of postcolonial or gender theory. The influence of gender and postcolonialism on historical scholarship is to be measured not in theoretical virtuosity, but in the way they have projected new and illuminating perspectives into the scholarly arena.

At the same time, recent developments in gender history and postcolonial history clearly demonstrate the costs that are incurred by embracing the cultural turn. There is little place here for the material basis of social stratification or for the collective agency of social groups pursuing their political ends. The fact that power – whether exercised over a colony or over a subordinate sex – has a cultural dimension does not mean that it is a cultural phenomenon tout court. Academics may be beguiled by the power of words and images, but for many of the groups they study power was experienced in sharply material forms. That truth was more evident in the first generation of scholarship in these fields than it is now. A re-engagement with that tradition, without losing the insights of cultural analysis, would be timely.

The history of the family

This is one of the areas where the history of gender has made a decisive contribution. For many people ‘family history’ means the recovery of their own genealogy and personal details about their ancestors. Historians, on the other hand, are chiefly interested in the family as a building block of society. The earliest studies were demographic; they drew heavily on the census records, focusing on family size, migration and relations with kin (as for example Michael Anderson, Family Structure in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire, 1971). Gender historians have put the spotlight on the family as the formative site in the acquisition of gender and sexual identities. This has involved a shift in research method, with a far greater emphasis on personal documents, such as letters and diaries (see, for example, Amanda Vickery, The Gentleman’s Daughter, 1998) The history of the working-class family still lags behind, because of the much greater scarcity of these materials.

Independence in South Asia and Africa

The period between 1945 and 1980 marked the end of the colonial era, after four centuries of European overseas expansion. All the colonial powers – Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium – abandoned their colonies. In some cases they were forced to do so by national liberation movements; in other cases they withdrew with a good grace in the hope of retaining influence in the future. The British withdrawal from India and Pakistan in 1947 was marked by severe communal violence. The independence of Ghana in 1957 set in train a rapid sequence of decolonization, leading to independence for Nigeria (1960), Kenya (1963) and many others countries. Independence for Zimbabwe (1980) marked the end of this phase. Hong Kong was not handed over to China until 1997.


In the eighteenth century European scholars developed a keen interest in the history and culture of the ‘Orient’, a concept they applied to an area ranging from North Africa and the Middle East through the Indian subcontinent to China and Japan. In his 1978 book Orientalism, the literary scholar Edward Said argued that this interest in fact reflected the Europeans’ sense of their own superiority over what they saw as a romanticized and ‘mysterious’ East.

Further reading

Laura Lee Downs, Writing Gender History, Hodder Arnold, 2004.

Joan W. Scott, Gender and the Politics of History, Columbia University Press, 1988.

Bonnie G. Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women and Historical Practice, Harvard University Press, 1998.

John Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Longman, 2005.

Barbara Bush, Imperialism and Postcolonialism, Longman, 2006.

Edward Said, Orientalism, 3rd edn, Penguin, 2003.

Catherine Hall & Sonya O. Rose (eds), At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Catherine Hall (ed.), Cultures of Empire, Manchester University Press, 2000.

Caroline Neale, Writing ‘Independent’ History: African Historiography, 1960–1980, Greenwood Press, 1985.

Olwen Hufton, The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500–1800, Harper Collins, 1995.


  1  Jutta Schwarzkopf, Women in the Chartist Movement, Macmillan, 1991.

  2  See for example, Angela Woollacott, On Her Their Lives Depend: Munitions Workers in the Great War, University of California Press, 1994.

  3  Peter Laslett and Richard Wall (eds), Household and Family in Past Time, Cambridge University Press, 1972.

  4  Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850, 2nd edn, Hutchinson, 2002.

  5  The classic airing of the pros and cons of patriarchy is the short interventions of Sheila Rowbotham, Sally Alexander and Barbara Taylor in Raphael Samuel (ed.), People’s History and Socialist Theory, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981, pp. 363–73.

  6  Jane Lewis (ed.), Labour and Love: Women’s Experience of Home and Family 1850–1940, Blackwell, 1986, editor’s introduction, p. 4. See also John Tosh, ‘What should historians do with masculinity? Reflections on nineteenth-century Britain’, History Workshop Journal, XXXVIII, 1994, pp. 179–202.

  7  George L. Mosse, The Image of Men: The Creation of Modern Masculinity, Oxford University Press, 1996, ch. 6.

  8  Alexandra Shepard, Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England, Oxford University Press, 2003; John Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Longman, 2005; Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes.

  9  Roy Porter and Lesley Hall, The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650–1950, Yale University Press, 1995, ch. 2; John Tosh, A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England, Yale University Press, 1999.

10  For a discussion of the implications of Lacan for gender historians, see Sally Alexander, Becoming a Woman and Other Essays in 19th and 20th Century Feminist History, Virago, 1994, pp. 105–10, 225–30.

11  The classic work in the medical category is Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Harvard University Press, 1990. For the legal approach, see Harry Cocks, Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century, I.B. Tauris, 2003, and Sean Brady, Masculinity and Male Homosexuality in Britain, 1861–1913, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, ch. 4.

12  Matt Houlbrook, Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918–1957, Chicago University Press, 2005.

13  Joan W. Scott, ‘Gender: a Useful Category of Historical Analysis’, American Historical Review, XCI, 1986, pp. 1053–75.

14  Stefan Collini, ‘The idea of “character” in Victorian political thought’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, XXXV, 1985, pp. 29–50.

15  Judith R. Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society, Cambridge University Press, 1980, p. ix.

16  Susan Pedersen, ‘Comparative history and women’s history: explaining convergence and divergence’, in Deborah Cohen and Maura O’Connor (eds), Comparison and History: Europe in Cross-National Perspective, Routledge, 2004, p. 95.

17  Edward Said, Orientalism, 2nd edn, 1995, p. 354. Said’s views have proved controversial. For a critique by a historian, see John M. MacKenzie, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts, Manchester University Press, 1995.

18  Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes, Verso, 1998.

19  Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994.

20  Ibid.

21  Both these strands feature in a major work of the 1970s: John Iliffe, The Modern History of Tanganyika, Cambridge University Press, 1979.

22  The present writer must be numbered among these naïve fieldworkers. See John Tosh, Clan Leaders and Colonial Chiefs in Lango, Oxford University Press, 1978.

23  Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 14–16.

24  Antoinette Burton (ed.), After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation, Duke University Press, 2003, editor’s introduction, p. 3.

25  Antoinette Burton, ‘Who needs the nation? Interrogating “British” history’, in Catherine Hall (ed.), Cultures of Empire, Manchester University Press, 2000.

26  Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture?, Routledge, 2004.

27  Catherine Hall, ‘Histories, empires and the post-colonial moment’, in Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti (eds), The Post-Colonial Question, Routledge, 1996, p. 70.

28  Moira Ferguson, Colonialism and Gender Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to James Kincaid, Columbia University Press, 1993, pp. 8–33.

29  John Marriott, The Other Empire: Metropolis, India and Progress in the Colonial Imagination, Manchester University Press, 2003, ch. 6.

30  Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Postcoloniality and the artifice of history: who speaks for “Indian” pasts?’, Representations, XXXVII, 1992, pp. 1–3.

31  G.C. Spivak, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’, in Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (eds), Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993, pp. 94–104.

32  Chakrabarty, ‘Postcoloniality’, p. 23.

33  Ashis Nandy, ‘History’s forgotten doubles’, History and Theory, theme issue 34, 1995.

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