In contemporary Britain, the subject of Muslim education provokes regular, often ill-informed, media and policy-level questions like “Do Muslim schools fuel extremism?” or “Are they compatible with British values?” Muslim institutions are widely assumed to provide education of inferior quality, and to reinforce social segregation and traditional gender roles. Public funding was first awarded to British Muslim schools in 1997. However, the number of Muslim state schools remains very small: in 2012, just 11 out of more than 6,500 state-maintained faith schools in the United Kingdom were Muslim. As an historian of British imperialism in India whose research focuses on colonial and Muslim education it is hard not to be struck by the parallels between later nineteenth century South Asia and Britain today.
In India, the British government ruled over a population of diverse races, ethnicities and creeds, including a large but ethnically heterogeneous aggregation of Muslims. Colonial officials fretted over the loyalty of their Muslim subjects and assessed the compatibility of Islam with Western-style government and social pluralism. Simultaneously, however, Muslim institutions were brought within the educational system established by the British, while Muslim pupils attended state-managed colleges and schools. Exchanges between Muslim and British parties on the subject of education in colonial India offer a set of lessons for policy-makers and a wider public concerned for (or about) Muslim education today. Continue reading “Muslim Education in Britain: Lessons From Colonial India”→
The recent surge of interest in imperial history has been cross-fertilised by work on a number of other themes, such as knowledge formation, law and governance and trans-national connections. This collected volume of essays very usefully brings together a number of these trends to bear upon the crucial area of colonial medicine. Self-consciously aiming to be a comparative work and taking material from India and South Africa, it takes its cue from earlier works that aimed to ‘de-centre’ the metropolis-periphery model of conceptualising empire and colonialism. While re-asserting the centrality of medical knowledge and practices to colonial rule, and the importance of the bodies of the colonised as sites for the exercise of colonial power, the book aims to move beyond a model of hegemony, domination and control. Instead, as the introductory essay outlines, the book’s trans-national methodology is intended to highlight ‘policies of European adaptation and resistance to initiatives of the colonized’ and the ‘transfer of ideas and knowledge in mutual engagements.’
The histories of Antarctic exploration have generally tended to focus on the narratives of intrepid explorers such as Ernest Shackleton and Robert F. Scott, who led expeditions of endurance to the arduous polar wilderness of Antarctica. In the view of Ben Maddison, this concentration on the heroism of the Antarctic explorers, who he defines as the Antarctic elite or the ‘masters’, was an understandable consequence of how historians had approached ‘Antarctic history almost exclusively from the rhetoric and records of the masters’ . In Class and Colonialism in Antarctic Exploration, 1750-1920 (2014), Maddison suggests that historians have, unintentionally, strengthened the invisibility of the Antarctic working class because they have been hesitant to engage critically with the voices from below on these expeditions.
Indeed, Maddison argues that it was the ‘gentrification’ of Antarctic exploration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that further contributed to the silencing of the working class. This despite the fact that the expeditions to Antarctica were ‘facilitated by multifarious labours of the working class’ . Consequently, Maddison claims to fill this historical vacuum by providing a substantial new interpretation of the history of Antarctic expeditions. Continue reading “How the Antarctic Reframes the Context of Class and Empire”→
As the blade of the guillotine slowed in the aftermath of the Terror, Napoleon took up the reigns as First Consul and French explorer Nicolas Baudin proposed an ambitious voyage to “interest the whole of Europe” . It is also where Nicole Starbuck begins Baudin, Napoleon and the Exploration of Australia (2013). A commoner by birth, Baudin made his name as a member of the French merchant marine and French East India Company, eventually captaining a scientific voyage to the Caribbean. However, his 1802 Australian voyage was unique in its narrow scope of exploration, and its unprecedented twenty-two participating naturalists and scientists. This voyage was the first to emphasize specialized knowledge acquisition and scientific detail, a shift from earlier Enlightenment explorations, when natural history was seen as “a sweeping and largely philosophical study of the natural environment…implicated in questions about rationality” . Continue reading “Empires in Perspective: Baudin, Napoleon and the Exploration of Australia”→