Imperial Publishers And The Idea Of Colonial History, 1870-1916
Keywords:History, HIC, 2005, Leslie Howsam
Drawing on correspondence in their archives, this article discusses British publishers' engagement with the problem of colonial history from the 1870s to 1916. This was the period when history was becoming professionalized but, apart from J.R. Seeley, few academic historians were writing marketable books on imperial subjects. The publishers turned instead to colonial administrators or journalists while failing to recognize the originality of texts by colonists themselves. The methodology is a juxtaposition of historiographical issues with those raised by scholarship in the history of the book and print culture. The publishing history of Seeley's Expansion of England (Macmillan, 1883) is followed by three case studies concerning imperial narratives in English publishing houses: Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, and Macmillan & Co. The central argument is that the agency of publishers in the composition and conceptualization, as well as the marketing, of colonial histories has been neglected. The essay nuances the debates about early imperial historiography and enriches book-history scholarship by extending its methodologies to non-fictional sources.