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Heroes of Empire

Heroes of Empire: Five Charismatic Men and the Conquest of Africa

Edward Berenson
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Heroes of Empire
    Book Description:

    During the decades of empire (1870–1914), legendary heroes and their astonishing deeds of conquest gave imperialism a recognizable human face. Henry Morton Stanley, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, Charles Gordon, Jean-Baptiste Marchand, and Hubert Lyautey all braved almost unimaginable dangers among “savage” people for their nation’s greater good. This vastly readable book, the first comparative history of colonial heroes in Britain and France, shows via unforgettable portraits the shift from public veneration of the peaceful conqueror to unbridled passion for the vanquishing hero. Edward Berenson argues that these five men transformed the imperial steeplechase of those years into a powerful “heroic moment.” He breaks new ground by linking the era’s “new imperialism” to its “new journalism”—the penny press—which furnished the public with larger-than-life figures who then embodied each nation’s imperial hopes and anxieties.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94719-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    In march 1896, while France and Britain dickered over who would control Western and Central Africa, the government in Paris took a bold, if reckless, step. It sent a young army captain, Jean-Baptiste Marchand, up the Congo River and across the forbidding, malarial landscape of Central Africa, tugging a dismantled steamboat all the way. The goal was a tiny, abandoned Egyptian fort on the Upper Nile—a place called Fashoda that took him two years to reach. From there, Marchand and his band of 150 men were to claim a vast central African empire for France. They kept to this...

  6. ONE Henry Morton Stanley and the New Journalism
    (pp. 22-48)

    “Dr. livingstone, i presume.” who doesn’t know these words? Only a few other quotations from history class have managed so well to resist the ravages of time and memory. “Four score and seven years ago” and “Let them eat cake” come to mind, as does “Give me liberty or give me death.” These other quotations distill certain great moments in the past—the Civil War, the French and American revolutions—and that is perhaps why we remember them. But why “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Why do we remember this simple salutation uttered by a Welsh-American journalist in search of a...

  7. TWO Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza and the Making of the French Third Republic
    (pp. 49-82)

    When henry morton stanley took the podium at the Hotel Continental in Paris, the room was palpably tense. His fellow Congo explorer, the French naval officer of Italian birth, Pierre (Pietro) Savorgnan de Brazza, had been attacking him, and the audience knew Stanley had prepared a blistering response.¹ The date was 19 October 1882, and members of the American elite in Paris had invited Stanley to address a banquet given in his honor at a club named for him. That evening the crowd included the American ambassador to France, the consul general, an assortment of well-to-do expatriates, and reporters from...

  8. THREE Charles Gordon, Imperial Saint
    (pp. 83-121)

    On 13 february 1885, theLondon Timesbroke the terrible news: General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon was dead. He had perished, so the editors said, defending British civilization from Islamic fanatics. For more than a year, the newspaper declared, Gordon had single-handedly protected Khartoum from a Muslim savior (the Mahdi) intent on imposing his barbarous rule over the Sudan, and then over Egypt and the rest of the Ottoman world. The announcement of Gordon’s death produced an outpouring of public grief unlike anything in recent memory. From one end of the political spectrum to the other, journalists, clergymen, schoolmasters, and...

  9. FOUR The “Stanley Craze”
    (pp. 122-165)

    If henry morton stanley achieved fame and celebrity in the wake of his “find Livingstone” mission, he became a charismatic hero in 1890 after returning to Britain from the Emin Pasha Rescue Expedition (1887–89). The press treated him as a conquering idol, lauding him and his apparent accomplishments in almost unprecedented terms. Queen Victoria sent him a personal greeting, and the prince of Wales presided over a mammoth welcome-home reception at London’s cavernous Royal Albert Hall. Other members of the royal family, aristocrats, and numerous dignitaries populated the front rows. More than twenty-five hundred people, many of whom Stanley...

  10. FIVE Jean-Baptiste Marchand, Fashoda, and the Dreyfus Affair
    (pp. 166-196)

    During one “bloody week” in the late spring of 1899, the Dreyfus Affair threatened to split France apart.¹ Two apparently contradictory judicial decisions placed France’s highest courts on both sides of the case, widening the gulf between Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards and sending both groups into the streets. The case had agitated the country since Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a rare Jewish member of the army’s General Staff, found himself sentenced to Devil’s Island for espionage. The charges against Dreyfus were false, and anti-Semitism had played no small part in both the accusation of treason and the solitary confinement and other harsh...

  11. SIX Brazza and the Scandal of the Congo
    (pp. 197-227)

    On 15 february 1905, thePetit parisien, the daily paper boasting the largest circulation in the world (1.5 million), published a short front-page article entitled “Arrestation Mysterieuse.” Details were sketchy, but the unsigned piece reported that a magistrate had charged one Georges Toquet with “assassination and violence against several natives” from the French Congo.¹ An interview with the colonial administrator’s mother yielded no information beyond confirmation that her son had indeed been taken by the police.

    The following day all the major Parisian papers and several provincial ones led with a much larger story of what thePetit parisienwas...

  12. SEVEN Hubert Lyautey and the French Seizure of Morocco
    (pp. 228-262)

    After the humiliating defeat of 1870, French commentators of all ideological stripes turned, as we have seen, to the celebration of heroes past and present.¹ With the exception of Joan of Arc, a female warrior who dressed as a man, all these heroes were male. In a post-defeat atmosphere of fear at the prospect of national decline, and even extinction, French writers emphasized the heroes’ exemplary courage and selflessness, their willingness to sacrifice themselves to save the nation. In response, a great many French men looked to fencing, dueling, and sport as the means to nurture a manly courage and...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 263-286)

    Stanley, brazza, gordon, marchand, and lyautey—five men who became charismatic heroes and exemplars of empire—resonated in their countries after the end of their African careers, and in some cases even, or especially, after their deaths. For most of the five, charisma gave way to celebrity and fame, as they no longer exercised authority in a Weberian sense. In Stanley’s case, for example, the excess violence associated with his expeditions deprived him of charismatic authority—his ability to inspire people to imitation and action—but not his celebrity status. And in the long run, his fame has endured. The...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 287-342)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 343-360)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 361-361)