A contested vision of empire
Anonymity, authority and mobility in the reception of William Macintosh’s Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782)
in Empire and mobility in the long nineteenth century
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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.

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