Martial races

The Military, Race and Masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857–1914

This book examines the nineteenth-century ideology of 'martial races', the belief that some groups of men are biologically or culturally predisposed to the arts of war. It explores how and why Scottish Highlanders, Punjabi Sikhs and Nepalese Gurkhas became linked in both military and popular discourse as the British Empire's fiercest, most manly soldiers. The violent disruption of the Rebellion of 1857, and the bitterness with which it was fought on both sides, had effects in both Britain and India that went far beyond the cessation of hostilities. The reactions of the British and Indian armies to the European threat created the preconditions for the rise of martial race ideology and discourse. This book also argues that in addition to helping shape Victorian culture more generally, the army influenced the regional cultures of the Highlands, the Punjab and Nepal in remarkably enduring ways. The Victorian army was in fact instrumental in shaping late Victorian British popular culture. The book documents the concrete ways that the 'martial races' themselves were, in a very real sense, self-conscious constructs of the British imagination in spite of the naturalised racial and gendered language that surrounded them. The book bridges regional studies of South Asia and Britain while straddling the fields of racial theory, masculinity, imperialism, identity politics, and military studies. It challenges the marginalisation of the British Army in histories of Victorian popular culture, and demonstrates the army's enduring impact on the regional cultures of the Highlands, the Punjab and Nepal.

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