Mobility and erasure in the art of Flinders’s Australian voyage, 1801– 3
This chapter explores the salience of mobility to an understanding of visual culture in the colonial period, focusing in particular on the works of art produced on board Matthew Flinders's inaugural circumnavigation of Australia between 1801 and 1803: by British landscape painter William Westall (1781–1850) and Austrian botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer (1760–1826). Mobility was a strategic advantage for such artists in providing new material to record both for Enlightenment science and a broader European public; yet it also presented an array of logistical, aesthetic and philosophical challenges. During and following the voyage an enormous number of pencil sketches, and subsequent watercolours, prints and oil paintings were produced to assist with the mapping and classifying missions of the voyage. Mobility, of course, was at the heart of this endeavour, and had at least since the Renaissance been equated with the pursuit of knowledge. Yet what I argue here is that in many senses mobility was utterly at odds not only with the practicalities of producing works of art under such trying circumstances, but more significantly, with the scientific demands made of the voyager artist; namely, precision and immutability.
Vagrancy laws and unauthorised mobility across colonial borders in New Zealand from 1877 to 1900
Historically, vagrancy is defined by the problem of those unwelcome transients who ‘stopped’ in places. Coerced to ‘move on’, these mobile people were among those whose mobility was not celebrated. The central objective of this chapter is to examine the regulation of mobility through its different registers in the legal records of nineteenth-century New Zealand vagrants. Specifically, the chapter provides an account of mobility witnessed through prosecutions for vagrancy. It argues that the ‘politics of mobility’ was produced through power relations: in this case, those relations of power inherent to the laws of a settler colonial mobility within a wider framework of Britain’s Pacific empire. There was one very specific difference which set the colonial legislation apart from its imperial model from the 1830s: the Vagrant Act contained a provision to prosecute vagrant Pakeha/Europeans who were viewed to be consorting with Māori or ‘aboriginal natives’. This chapter proposes that the vagrancy law was a ‘central mechanism’ of the colonial project, and integral to the creation of knowledge about people and populations, allocating control and constructing social difference.
Anonymity, authority and mobility in the reception of William Macintosh’s Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782)
Innes M. Keighren
Through an attention to the life and work of William Macintosh – a Scots Caribbean plantation owner, travel writer and political commentator – this chapter considers the significance of individual mobility and the circulation of ideas to Britain’s imperial project in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. It begins with the emergence of Macintosh as a political actor and pamphleteer and his efforts to shape imperial policy from the Caribbean. It then examines the significance of his personal mobility between the West Indies and the East Indies as he completed a journey narrated in his 1782 book Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The circulation of the ideas contained in Travels will be examined for what it reveals about the uneven mobility of knowledge in print. Macintosh’s status as an authoritative commentator on the empire will, moreover, be shown to depend in important ways upon his individual mobility. Overall, the chapter will offer a new perspective on the circulation of seditious print in the Age of Revolution and demonstrate the crucial role Travels played in the trial of Warren Hastings and British governmental efforts to restrict the authority of the East India Company.
The fabrication of an immobile culture of nineteenth- century exploration
Nineteenth-century projects of exploration came to be defined by the practical experience of moving across unknown spaces. However, the place of exploratory travel within the newly emerging science of geography was the focus of heated debates throughout the nineteenth century. The purpose of this chapter is to engage with these discussions and examine the different practices of mobility apparent in making geographical knowledge in the mid-nineteenth century. It introduces the ‘easychair geographer’ as an overlooked, yet important, aspect of the Victorian culture of exploration. Despite not physically going to the places they wrote about, these sedentary practitioners explored by reading, collating and synthesising texts. The chapter addresses the experiences of imperial mobility through a critical study of two seemingly contrasting figures: the sedentary geographer William Desborough Cooley, who compiled a map of Eastern Central Africa while remaining in London, and the missionary-explorer David Livingstone. In reconstructing these experiences, it is shown how their bodies became bound up with meanings of action and stasis. These discussions are further animated by a personal dispute between Cooley and Livingstone, expressed in Livingstone’s 1856 letter, titled ‘Easychair geography versus Field geography’.
This introduction outlines how the foregrounding of a critical perspective on mobility and movement can reinvigorate histories of imperialism, outlining the different practices, subjects and things which have moved or have enabled or constrained imperial mobilities. It sets out the interdisciplinary, conceptual and historical context for the volume, providing an overview of imperial histories which have focused on movement, migration, travel and trade, before outlining how a new and emerging field of mobility studies has focused attention on the distinctive qualities of movement, past and present. The chapter argues that the fields of imperial history and mobility studies can usefully learn from one another, before providing an overview of the chapters comprising the book.
Mobility was central to imperialism, from the human movements entailed in exploration, travel, and migration, to the information, communications and commodity flows vital to trade, science, governance and military power. While historians have written on exploration, commerce, imperial transport and communications networks, and the movements of slaves, soldiers, and scientists, few have reflected upon the social, cultural, economic and political significance of mobile practices, subjects, and infrastructures that underpin imperial networks, or examined the qualities of movement valued by imperial powers and agents at different times. This collection explores the intersection of debates on imperial relations, colonialism and empire with emerging work on mobility. In doing this, it traces how the movements of people, representations, and commodities helped to constitute empires. The collection examines things that moved across the British Empire, including, objects and ideas, as well as the efforts made to prevent and govern these movements. It also considers the systems, networks and infrastructures that enabled imperial mobilities to happen, and things that went wrong. The collection ranges from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, a period that witnessed the eclipse of the ‘first’ British Empire in North America and the Caribbean, and the expansion of an imperial presence in Asia and Africa, and ends with the empire at its greatest extent in the interwar period. Geographically, it encompasses much of the territorial breadth of the British Empire in Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Caribbean. It also ranges off-shore and into the air.
This chapter covers the interwar period and argues that various promoters of British imperial aviation tried to turn national airmindedness into a notion of imperial aeromobility. In 1927 the Air League of the British Empire was restructured in order to work towards a strong air force, the full development of British civil and commercial aviation, and to promote research into aeronautics, that together would provide security and prosperity within the British Empire. The Women’s Engineering Society held speakers’ series on the idea of a new, mobile, airborne empire that provided opportunities for particular women. Imperial aeromobility promised to reorient relations of time and space as well as deliver air control, new forms of tourism, international harmony and even white women’s independence. However, these dreams were undercut by the messy materiality of flights, pilots and passengers being ‘grounded’ in two senses: they could be prevented from flying and they were embedded in ground-based networks. These ‘groundings’ illustrate Saulo Cwerner’s (2009) point that aeromobilities are interdependent with other networks and complicate the illusion of freedom through flight.
Knowledge mobility and eighteenth-century military colonialism
Huw J. Davies
Military officers were an integral part of Britain’s imperial expansion in the eighteenth century. Colonial knowledge was one aspect of a knowledge network that helped drive military innovation and adaptation. In the place of formal education, British military personnel read books broadly related to their profession. Military history was popular in the first half of the century, as officers basked in the reflected glory of Marlborough. Mid-century military defeat, however, brought a new focus on continental military theories and treatises. At the same time, military personnel frequently visited the sites of past military campaigns. In this sense, officers learnt quite literally from the terrain on which battles, campaigns and wars had been fought. In combination, military print culture, colonial knowledge and terrain were the components of a military web, a collection of knowledge networks which catalysed the transmission and exchange of military knowledge throughout the empire. These were the means by which knowledge about war was generated and transmitted, and it is to these that we must look in order to understand British military success and failure in the eighteenth-century empire.
Nineteenth-century seamen’s missions and merchant seamen’s mobility
In the early nineteenth century, evangelical seamen’s missions began to appear in Britain, tending to the spiritual and material needs of the sailor class. Fundamental to the movement’s belief in the seaman’s potential to demonstrate British and Christian values to non-Christian exotic communities was the assumption that sailors were a transient people, considered most useful to the empire when travelling ‘on their element’, the sea. Sailors’ behaviour on shore, however, could be detrimental to the empire’s image, often impacting on both settled and indigenous communities. Attempts by colonial missionaries and merchants to direct the sailor’s movements while in port sought to allay local anxieties by reaffirming his place on the sea. The mobility of seamen in China’s Guangdong Province and efforts to provide them with spiritual welfare reveal the anxieties of colonists where the British Empire was yet to have a firm foothold. Over the course of the nineteenth century, attitudes towards the permanence of sailors changed as the relationships between British traders and Chinese authorities shifted, demonstrating conditional acceptance as colonies became more self-assured of their place within empire, or came to regard the presence of seamen as confirmation of their own right to occupy a peripheral space.
Enthusiasm for the connective power of aeroplanes and airships between the two world wars saw aerial mobility rise to prominence as a British imperial project, yet little attention has been paid to the practices, technologies and ‘moorings’ by which the atmosphere was rendered a medium of imperial mobility. One of the most significant parts of this infrastructure was the knowledge and predictive potential provided by meteorology. In order to make sense of how emerging practices of colonial meteorology and imperial aviation were changing conceptions of colonial space, this chapter explores one meteorologist’s own forms of mobility as journeys by car and aeroplane were undertaken to develop and inspect the infrastructural moorings of emergent imperial mobilities. Making use of the memoirs of Albert Walter, government statistician and meteorologist in British East Africa, along with colonial and metropolitan government archives, the chapter examines how mobilities were recounted through narrative forms which called forth older modes of imperial travel writing which Mary Louise Pratt (1992) has analysed as a window onto the ‘anti-conquest’ of scientific knowledge-making and colonial administration.