This is a book-length study of the ideological foundations of British imperialism in the early twentieth century. By focussing on the heretofore understudied concept of imperial citizenship, it illustrates how the political, cultural, and intellectual underpinnings of empire were constructed and challenged by forces in both Britain and the ‘Britains Overseas’, the settlement colonies of Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Debates about imperial citizenship reveal how Britons conceived of the empire: was it an extension of the nation-state, a collection of separate and distinct communities, or a type of ‘world-state?’ These debates were also about the place of empire in British society, its importance to the national identity, and the degree to which imperial subjects were or were not seen as ‘fellow Britons’. This public discourse was at its most fervent from the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) to the early 1920s, when Britain emerged victorious, shocked and exhausted from the Great War. Drawing on the thinking of imperial activists, publicists, ideologues and travellers such as Lionel Curtis, John Buchan, Arnold White, Richard Jebb and Thomas Sedgwick, the book is a comparative history of how the idea of imperial citizenship took hold in early-twentieth-century Britain and how it helped foster the articulation of a broader British World. It also reveals how imperial citizenship as a form of imperial identity was challenged by voices in both Britain and the empire, and how it influenced later imperial developments.
This chapter discusses the theme of this volume, which is about imperial citizenship in the British Empire. This volume examines how imperial ideologues used the language of imperial citizenship as part of broader discourses concerning the purpose, the constitution, and the future of Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first section provides an exegesis of the theoretical underpinnings of various conservative arguments for the creation of an imperial citizenship and the second offers an examination of the applicability of such abstract constructions in practice through case studies of the citizenship issues of imperial naturalisation, immigration and emigration. This volume also analyzes the views of several British national figures on imperialist citizenship, including Lionel Curtis, John Buchan and Arnold White.
Imperial citizenship as a prelude to world government
This chapter analyses the ideas of Lionel Curtis, co-founder of the imperial pressure group the Round Table, concerning imperial citizenship. Curtis' ideas concerning imperial citizenship point to one of the central strands of the imperial thought web—the idea of union consecrated in an imperial citizenship. He believed that imperial federation held the key to world peace and provided the buttress of civilization. Though Curtis struggled to reconcile the existence of multiple loyalties within the Empire with the formation of a unified imperial state, his ideas were influential in framing the political evolution of Empire in the mid-twentieth century. Perhaps of greatest significance was his concept of dyarchy, which epitomized the British style of informal Empire.
This chapter examines the views of John Buchan, Governor-General of Canada from 1935 to 1940, concerning imperial citizenship. Buchan's imperial outlook was that of a progressive conservative with a cosmopolitan sympathy held back, but only just, by his respect for tradition and stability. His vision was of a broad-minded notion of Empire based upon morality, values and an understated fatalism. Unlike Lionel Curtis, Buchan was more interested in fostering the shared Britannic identity he believed must necessarily underpin any firm imperial citizenship. This chapter also analyses Buchan's work on imperialism A Lodge in the Wilderness.
Arnold White and the parochial view of imperial citizenship
This chapter analyses the views of English journalist Arnold White on imperial citizenship. White believed that Empire was just fine as it was, except for those instances when it could benefit from becoming more like it had been. He epitomized imperialism at its most parochial. He saw the Empire as not just a figurative but also a literal extension of England and his desire to improve the nation's health and efficiency and to promote patriotism and loyalty applied equally to both England and the Empire. Thus, his notion of imperial citizenship was the same as his notion of domestic citizenship. However, there is one aspect of White's thought on English citizenship that did incorporate the Empire: his concern over national efficiency, specifically a fear of moral and physical degeneracy.
This chapter examines the view of English author Richard Jebb on imperial citizenship. Unlike Lionel Curtis and John Buchan, Jebb remained convinced that Britain must continue to be the centre of the Empire and he envisioned the Empire less as a federation and more as a confederation. He also lobbied for a greater regard for colonial nationalism as the buttress of imperial unity, particularly through a common imperial naturalisation process, and those of ‘colonial autonomy’. This chapter also comments on Jebb's Studies in Colonial Nationalism and suggests that he was a colonial nationalist.
This chapter analyses the views of English social worker Thomas Sedgwick on imperial citizenship. Sedgwick believed that emigration was a case of imperial citizenship at work and he advocated for the so-called practical imperialism. However, an analysis of Sedgwick's assisted emigration work demonstrated that the social imperialist programme of fostering a common imperial citizenship based upon a social ideal of ‘Britishness’ proved no more successful than did the broad church approach of Richard Jebb or John Buchan, the ethnic ‘whiteness’ of Arnold White, or the centralist political approach of Lionel Curtis.
This chapter discusses the failure of imperial citizenship in Britain. The efforts of late Victorian and Edwardian imperial ideologues to articulate a concept of citizenship which could unite Britons at home and in the Empire ended in frustration because broader the public was not convinced of the necessity of a clearly defined imperial citizenship. All the imperial ideologues considered in this volume saw the social idea of citizenship as more important than the political idea and this was not acceptable to most Britons. It offended the prevalent belief in the superiority of the British race and it rejected the consensual notion of identity upon which contemporary ideas of citizenship were based.