Berny Sèbe on ‘Celebrating’ British and French Imperialism: The Making of Colonial Heroes Acting in Africa (1870-1939).’

This paper analysed the ways in which British and French explorers, missionaries, officers or administrators involved in the European takeover of Africa were promoted, manufactured and ‘packaged’ for home consumption in the context of the wave of ‘New Imperialism’. The socio-cultural, political, technical and commercial processes that led to the emergence of imperial heroes provide a valuable insight into the mechanisms that favoured the emergence of popular expressions of imperialism.

Berny Sèbe is a Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Birmingham, with research interests in the cultural history of the French and British empires, the decolonization of the Sahara and the legacy of European imperialisms in a comparative perspective. He has published several articles and book chapters, is currently revising his thesis for publication and is co-editing a volume entitled ‘Echoes of Empire’.

Cristina Pividori on 'War Heroes and Pacifists on the Same Front: Re-reading Heroism in Two Imperial War Memoirs’.

This paper explored the notion of heroism in Victorian war literature by analyzing the figure of the soldier-hero in two imperial war memoirs: Captain Mowbray Thomson’s The Story of Cawnpore:

The Indian Mutiny and John Pearman’s The Radical Soldier’s Tale. While The Story of Cawnpore is an emblematic example of what I call the Victorian hero myth, that is, the effective merging of traditional heroism, war as adventure and imperialism in mid-to late-nineteenth century Britain – The Radical Soldier’s Tale appears to posit an alternative to this widely accepted view, challenging its assumed universality and immutability. By analyzing Pearman’s innovative revision of heroism, in contrast to Thomson’s more conventional representation of the theme, I attempted to illustrate both the traditional construction and a possible re-reading of the subject taking place in the same period. Particular attention was given to the fact that Pearman’s shift towards a more complex appreciation of the heroic subject appears to anticipate similar patterns occurring in the literature written during and after World War One.

Cristina Pividori works at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.