Martini Maccomo, the African Lion King

Of all the different circus disciplines, the one that appears to have been seen as the most ‘exotic’ was that of the lion-tamer. This was man triumphing over nature, and travelling menageries, in which these lion-tamers initially worked, were an embodiment of British imperialism, showing how Britain had dominion over its empire and all that was in it. Big cat shows were also intended to thrill and excite, as the lion-tamer faced nature red in tooth and claw. It fed

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Curry Tales of the Empire

Indian curry is an extraordinarily popular genre of food, visible not only in the shape of curry houses across the world but also as take-aways, frozen curry meals and curry powders sold in grocers’ stores. But what is the history of the Indian curry? Was it Indian to begin with or a colonial imposition evolving from a simplified and over-generalized understanding of local food cultures?  This essay traces the history of Indian curry as we know it today and the

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Victorian #PlantParenthood: Houseplants, Love, and Domestic Rearrangements

Houseplants are a big deal now. As the COVID-19 pandemic has altered how we engage with the world, plants have stepped in as companions in easing stress and boosting mental health.  Moreover, plant corners of social media have bloomed into virtual global networks of plant collectors through shared hashtags, aesthetics, and even plant swaps. This botanic boom is far from novel. During the nineteenth century, horticulture and botany positively bloomed. A distinctly modern branch was indoor gardening (also called “window

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Sir Thomas Muir (1844–1934): Victorian Educationist and Mathematician

The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the Victorian mathematician and educationist Thomas Muir, and to provide an entrée to his diaries, in which he wrote of his adventurous tours in the remote interior of the Cape Colony.[i] Muir’s origins and his teaching years in Scotland Muir was a Scottish ‘lad O’Pairts’: Victorian Scotland prided itself on giving opportunities to a talented child from a modest background. Muir’s rise from rural Scottish boy in Lanarkshire to

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Flora Shaw: The Times, imperial travels, and a woman in empire

Flora Shaw was a journalist and Colonial Editor of The Times, 1893-1900. She secured this position due to a widely praised series of ‘Letters’ from South Africa, penned during the first of a number of visits to South Africa, Australia, and Canada in the following decade. Shaw visited South Africa and Australia in 1892-3, Canada and the Klondike in 1898, and South Africa in 1900 and 1902. Shaw was an evangelising imperialist, as Dorothy O. Helly and Helen Callaway have

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North American Democracies in the Victorian Era: The Political Satire of Th. Ch. Haliburton

Throughout 2020, the world has been watching American democracy appearing to unravel as its Covid-19 pandemic spiralled out of control; the responsibility for public health measures devolved from the federal level to state level, then to county level, and ultimately down to individuals who pushed back in the name of freedom and challenged lockdowns in courts, and attempted to take over the US Capitol. Prudently, on March 31 Canada closed its southern border and is continuing to monitor the increasingly

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“As far away from England as any man could be”: The Luminaries as sensation sequel?

By Kirby-Jane Hallum Kirby-Jane Hallum teaches English Literature at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Her research interests lie in the long 19th century in Britain and New Zealand, with particular focus on women’s and popular literature. Kirby-Jane’s monograph, Aestheticism and the Marriage Market in Victorian Popular Fiction: The Art of Female Beauty, is forthcoming from Pickering & Chatto in 2015, and she is currently embarking on a new project regarding Britain’s influence on colonial New Woman writing. Follow

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Merrick Burrow, ‘The Imperial Souvenir: Things and Masculinities in H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines & Allan Quatermain’

By Merrick Burrow (University of Huddersfield) This post accompanies Merrick Burrow’s Journal of Victorian Culture article published (2013). It can be read in full here. H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines ends with a letter in which Sir Henry Curtis, one of the main protagonists, highlights the significance of hunting and battle trophies brought back from the ‘lost world’ of Kukuanaland for his renewed sense of his own hegemonic masculinity: The tusks of the great bull that killed poor Khiva

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Andrea Rehn, ‘White Rajas, Native Princes and Savage Pirates: Lord Jim and the Cult of White Sovereignty’

Andrea Rehn’s article “White Rajas, Native Princes and Savage Pirates: Lord Jim and the Cult of White Sovereignty” reads Conrad’s Lord Jim as an ironic but also nostalgic re-imagining of the first of the white rajas, James Brooke. This figurehead of informal imperial expansion was idolized in England, as archival documents reveal, for his charismatic bestowal of the rule of law in Borneo. Ironically, Brooke achieved sovereignty through his personal suspension of law, an example of what Carl Schmitt terms

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Hilary M. Carey, ”The Secret of England’s Greatness’: Medievalism, Ornithology, and Anglican Imperialism in the Aboriginal Gospel Book of Sir George Grey’

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries holds many treasures, but one of the more remarkable is the Aboriginal Gospel Book (Grey MS 82). This is work of unique importance because it contains the only manuscript copy of the first translation of the gospel into any Australian Aboriginal language. The translation was completed by the missionary Lancelot Threlkeld and presented to the bibliophile and statesman Sir George Grey on 26 June 1858. But this was not the end of the

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