Uruguay was never really considered part of the formal British Empire, but it is commonly used as the typical illustration of Britain’s informal empire. Most studies on the relationship between Great Britain and Uruguay during the 19th century are economic and political. Missing are the social and cultural responses of the British colonists to what they perceived as an alien and dangerous environment.
The British colony in Uruguay was never more than 2000 strong, but during its apogee, between the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, the colony certainly wielded enormous economic power. This small group of British subjects became immersed in the local population: the native criollos, who, although they were all third- of fourth-generation descendants of European origin, were nonetheless considered culturally inferior. The British leaders of the colony in Uruguay defined the classic cultural and social strategies to combat and defeat the most profound fear of the Late Victorian period: turning native. Continue reading “For Fear of ‘Turning Native’: British Colonialism in Uruguay”