Facing Empire

fullagarposted copyForthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018: Facing Empire: Indigenous Experiences in a Revolutionary Age, 1760-1840, edited by Kate Fullagar and Michael A. McDonnell: pre-order now!

With contributions from: Tony Ballantyne (Otago), Justin Brooks (Yale University), Colin Calloway (Dartmouth), Kate Fullagar (Macquarie), Bill Gammage (ANU), Robert Kenny (Deakin), Shino Konishi (UWA), Michael A. McDonnell (Sydney), Elspeth Martini (Pittsburgh), Jennifer Newell (AMNH), Joshua L. Reid (Massachusetts), Daniel Richter (Pennsylvania), Rebecca Shumway (Charleston), Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge), Nicole Ulrich (Rhodes).

The late eighteenth century is often depicted as a Revolutionary Age because of the intense political struggles that took place in Europe, Asia and the Americas. But another revolutionary dimension of this era was the profound acceleration in encounters and contacts between new peoples around the globe.  As historian C.A. Bayly has noted, European imperial expansion was one of the main drivers of this phenomenon, but so too were indigenous peoples, especially in thickening and complicating relations between different societies.

While many scholars have looked at this era of expanding imperialism and noted its links with globalisation, they have usually done so from European perspectives. Even as an increasing number of historians recognise the crucial roles indigenous people played in this process, few have tried to think comparatively about indigenous experiences within and across expanding imperial borders over the course of this revolutionary era. The result is that too often when thinking comparatively or transnationally, indigenous peoples become distant and passive players in a largely European-driven game. Granted, one reason for the scholarly neglect has been a reluctance to perpetuate the European framing that such work must entail: to place indigenous peoples from vastly different spaces into historical relation is to give some special privilege to the European empires that encountered them separately. Yet this reluctance has also come at a cost: it has missed an opportunity to understand how indigenous people in this period shared some common means of accommodating, repelling, complicating and even ignoring the European encounter. In doing so, they shaped and influenced the modern world in significant ways.

This forthcoming volume takes up the opportunity. In order to sharpen the focus, it looks at indigenous experiences of the British empire particularly. Between about 1760 and 1840, Britain faced a series of political upheavals and massively increased its imperial claims. Yet what role did indigenous peoples play in these movements? How did they help shape the end of the first British empire and the start of the second? What lessons did indigenous peoples learn about Europeans and what new connections did they make between themselves, newcomers, and other indigenous peoples? What role did they play in shaping history on the imperial waterfront, and in influencing decisions in Europe? We aim to view indigenous peoples as vital and dynamic actors across this increasingly global stage and think about what this new world might have looked like to them. We aim, in other words, not merely to write histories that include indigenous perspectives but to present the imperial past with indigenous peoples as the main subjects.

Also, a recent spruik here on the Age of Revolution historioblog!