Colonial connections, 1815–45

Colonial connections, 1815–45: Patronage, the information revolution and colonial government

Zoë Laidlaw
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Colonial connections, 1815–45
    Book Description:

    This ground-breaking book challenges standard interpretations of metropolitan strategies of rule in the early nineteenth century. After the Napoleonic wars, the British government ruled a more diverse empire than ever before, and the Colonial Office responded by cultivating strong personal links with governors and colonial officials through which influence, patronage and information could flow. By the 1830s the conviction that personal connections were the best way of exerting influence within the imperial sphere went well beyond the metropolitan government, as lobbyists, settlers and missionaries also developed personal connections to advance their causes. However, the successive crises in the 1830s exposed these complicated networks of connection to hostile metropolitan scrutiny. This book challenges traditional notions of a radical revolution in government, identifying a more profound and general transition from a metropolitan reliance on gossip and personal information to the embrace of new statistical forms of knowledge. The analysis moves between London, New South Wales and the Cape Colony, encompassing both government insiders and those who struggled against colonial and imperial governments.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-440-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-ix)
    John M. MacKenzie

    British historians have long been anxious, for whatever reason, to separate domestic from colonial history. Recently, there has been a renewed effort to achieve this, with the publication ofThe Absent-Minded Imperialists, an impressively researched book by a distinguished historian of the British Empire, Bernard Porter. Porter argues that, at least until the later nineteenth century, the British were indeed absent-minded about (for which read largely ignorant of and culturally indifferent towards) their empire. In the realms of both high and popular culture, the British had much more significant concerns, particularly those relating to class struggles, social issues, economic matters,...

    (pp. x-xi)
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Dyani Tshatshu, a minor Xhosa chief, reportedly made these comments while observing a House of Commons’ debate in 1836. Tshatshu was in London to give evidence to a parliamentary committee on the relationship between Britain and her indigenous colonial subjects, an inquiry particularly inspired by the conflict between Xhosa and Europeans in southern Africa. Tshatshu was brought to London by people who shared (and probably shaped) his conviction that imperial intervention could profoundly affect colonial governance, but his sense that London was the critical hub of imperial rule was not uncommon in the 1830s. Both those who hoped for imperial...

  7. Part I Metropolitan concerns
    • CHAPTER TWO Networking the empire
      (pp. 13-38)

      Networks of personal connections were of critical importance to colonial governance in the early nineteenth century. This chapter examines the way in which the study of imperial networks illuminates colonial history, considering first their nature and structure before turning specifically to three of the most important networks for this book. Together with the discussion of the Colonial Office in chapter three, it provides a metropolitan context for the remainder ofColonial connections.

      Networks – whether of people or phenomena – have both enjoyed popularity and been subjected to extended sociological and mathematical analysis since the 1990s.² Imperial historians have begun...

    • CHAPTER THREE Asserting metropolitan control: the Colonial Office, 1815–36
      (pp. 39-58)

      Between 1780 and 1815 Britain acquired extensive new colonial territories. Some were the spoils of victory, others had been taken for immediate or longer-term strategic purposes during the French wars, or, as in the Indian subcontinent, to secure the internal stability necessary to protect Britain’s interests. As Bayly has argued, few were acquired with primarily an economic purpose in mind.² Some of the new colonies, such as Mauritius, Ceylon and the Cape, had been part of the French or Dutch empires, and brought with them a history of European law and tensions between settlers and indigenous peoples; others, like Malta...

  8. Part II Colonial struggles
    • CHAPTER FOUR The isolation of governors
      (pp. 61-93)

      Gipps’s tongue-in-cheek letter identifies some of the difficulties that a colonial governor faced: isolation from metropole and colonists; constant financial pressure; professional uncertainty; and grinding hard work. Gipps was lucky to have a confidant like Superintendent La Trobe separated by only the week’s travel between Sydney and Melbourne. Many other governors were far more isolated, mediators between centre and periphery who fitted in neither sphere. Such a situation, exacerbated by distance from Britain, led governors to modify their actions according to not only their instructions, inclinations and the colonial situation, but also their perceptions of how decisions would be received...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Traffic: the unofficial correspondence of colonial officials
      (pp. 94-126)

      Despite Ralph Darling’s stinging condemnation of his surveyor-general, and his warning that metropolitan failure to support the local government could only lead to disaster, Mitchell outlasted Darling in New South Wales by almost twenty-five years. The antipathy between the two men, which contributed to Darling’s recall, was based on the strength of their parallel relationships with the senior staff in the Colonial Office. Mitchell, a Peninsular veteran, was a protégé of Sir George Murray (colonial secretary, 1828–30) and also communicated copiously and unofficially with permanent under-secretary Robert Hay. Ambitious and self-centred, Mitchell was quick to find fault with his...

    • CHAPTER SIX Colonial lobbyists: tactics and networks
      (pp. 127-166)

      Edward Macarthur, like all the colonial lobbyists and officials considered in this book, regarded metropolitan influence as critical for colonial concerns. Even those who did not manage to obtain influence often participated in debates about how it might be acquired. The most successful lobbyists developed networks of personal contacts in the metropolitan government, which were utilised over a number of campaigns and maintained by permanent representatives in the metropole. This chapter considers lobbyists campaigning on the Cape Colony or New South Wales, demonstrating that lobbyists who dealt with quite different issues nevertheless shared an understanding of colonial power and how...

  9. Part III Agendas for imperial reform
    • CHAPTER SEVEN An information revolution
      (pp. 169-199)

      James Stephen’s weariness was understandable. Every day Stephen and his staff at the Colonial Office faced an enormous challenge: how could a small metropolitan organisation effectively control a diverse, distant and increasingly dissatisfied empire? Colonial Office action seemed to Stephen to be contingent and limited almost by definition. As he wrote in 1836: ‘It would be a very arduous task indeed to vindicate the best of our colonial schemes of Governm[en]t on the principles of political philosophy. All that can be said for them is, that they are as good as Parliament will sanction, and as the Colonists will accept.’²...

  10. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusion
    (pp. 200-205)

    Earl Grey’s casual reference to an Arrowsmith atlas indicates how rapidly new visual and statistical conceptualisations of empire took hold in the Colonial Office. Returning to the department in 1846 as secretary of state, Grey could imagine implementing some of the pan-imperial changes only dreamed of during his term as under-secretary in the early 1830s. The juxtaposition of the changing information order with domestic, colonial and personal politics in the late 1830s had precipitated new ways for the imperial government to control the empire and particularly the settler colonies. Yet during Grey’s tenure at the Colonial Office the foundations would...

  11. Appendices
      (pp. 206-207)
      (pp. 207-208)
      (pp. 208-210)
    (pp. 211-232)
  13. Index
    (pp. 233-241)