Joanna de Groot
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Empire and history writing 1890s–1950
in Empire and history writing in Britain c.1750–2012
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This chapter discusses the shaping of historical writing between the 1890s and 1950, as well as the tension felt by the ‘modern’ historians to move beyond their predecessors. It explores how, in a post-1918 climate of anxiety, expressions of an ‘Imperial’ Britain could have a reassuring effect for readers. The numerous discussions of ‘Imperial’ Britain explored within this chapter all imply it has survived as a core element of historical writing within this period; imperial civilizing missions are described as still underpinning historical narratives, despite the way in which differing racial references in historical texts of the interwar period present a paradoxical picture for readers. ‘Englishness’ is also explored in relation to the ‘English’ identity, with the chapter finally discussing how the majority of historical practices within this period operated from ‘within’ a racialised and ethnicised culture shared by both historians and their readers.

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