Heroic imperialists in Africa

The promotion of British and French colonial heroes, 1870–1939

Berny Sèbe
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Imperial heroes embodied the symbolic implementation of the colonial project and performed a highly mythologized meeting between conquerors and conquered. They were a crucial element of the 'European encounter with Africa' that took place as part of the Scramble for Africa. The book explores systematically the multiple outlets through which heroes of the British and French empires were celebrated, how their reputations were made over several decades and who sustained them. It looks at the general socio-cultural and political trends prevalent in Britain and France, and considers micro-economic tendencies and technological developments in the cultural industry that the development of legends revolving around imperial heroes. The book allows the reader to grasp the variety of print and audiovisual media, genres and formats through which meanings were conveyed, allowing imperial heroes to reach a 'public presence'. Two major aspects invested imperial heroes with a role in society. First is the use of their image as political argument or their own political roles. The other is the values that they embodied through their own personal dedication above and beyond the call of duty. The book presents the micro-histories of the making of the legends surrounding the figures of Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand and the Sirdar Kitchener. It details how a war correspondent George Warrington Steevens, and a publisher, Blackwood and Sons, converted the fall of Khartoum to market 'With Kitchener to Khartoum' as patriotic writing.

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‘Heroic Imperialists in Africa stands at the crossroads between imperial, cultural, publishingand even literary history. It opens new perspectives and undoubtedly deserves to bewidely read.'
Daniel Follard
Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens, Vol 82
Autumn 2015

‘The broad temporal perspective and the multiplicity of different imperial heroes analysed make this study both richly detailed and highly pertinent to an array of different scholarly questions and fields. Thus, it should be recommended to students and scholars not only of imperial history, but also of Franco-British relations, French studies, cultural history and the history of popular culture.'
Joanna Warson, University of Portsmouth
The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
May 2014

‘This book is a major addition to reputation studies and to imperial history. The author has clear command over the political contexts in Britain and France from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century: there is much here that will provoke established scholars to think about popular imperialism and imperialist icons in new ways. But Sèbe's work is also accessible to those new to the field, offering, for instance, a helpful appendix of short biographies of the key figures he discusses. Sèbe paves the way for future research on imperial myth-making, having successfully established the importance of the heroic legend to both British and French imperial culture.'
Justin D. Livingstone, Queen's University Belfast
HER, 556
October 2017

‘Undoubtedly a highly significant and elegantly written work.'
Thomas Sharp, Oxford Brookes University
War in History 24 (1)


‘Berny Sèbe has written an excellent comparative account of the rise to prominence in Britain and France of male colonial figures in the late nineteenth century and their continued relevance into the interwar years.'
STEPHEN HEATHORN, McMaster University
French History
March 2016

‘It is a fascinating volume... the work is a first-class contribution to understanding, and will hopefully open the way for more such comparative analyses.'
John Mullen is Professor of British Studies at the University of Rouen
March 2016

‘Its archival richness and its refreshing reliance on literary history make it not only a balanced, but also a finely textured, interdisciplinary piece of scholarship.'
Interventions International Journal of Postcolonial Studies
March 2016

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