International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015

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117 Mobility and empire (1)
Convenor(s) David Lambert (University of Warwick, UK)
Peter Merriman (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Chair(s) Peter Merriman (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Timetable Friday 10 July 2015, Timeslot 1 (09:15 - 11:00)
Room RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre
Session abstract The past few decades have seen a proliferation of academic research on the histories and historical geographies of empire, and more recently the histories and historical geographies of mobility. Important research on imperial networks, slavery, global trade, Black Atlantic cultures, travel writing, imperial air routes, global migration patterns and much more has revealed some of the ways in which mobility and empire are entwined, as have academic studies of the mobility practices, technologies and infrastructures underpinning imperial ambitions and strategies of governance. Despite obvious overlaps, academic studies of mobility and empire frequently demonstrate quite different conceptual and disciplinary underpinnings, and few scholars have examined their (potential) conceptual cross-fertilisation. These sessions include contributions from scholars working in a range of different disciplines, with the intention of exploring the conceptual contributions that research on mobilities can bring to studies of empire, and vice-versa; how mobility practices and imperial relations are afforded by technologies and infrastructures; different experiences, knowledges and accounts of imperial mobilities; the regulation of imperial mobilities; critical studies of the mobilities of different people; studies of non-human imperial movements; and studies of the mobilities and circulation patterns underpinning the emergence of diasporic and hybrid cultures.
Linked Sessions Mobility and empire (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details:
Consorting with others: Vagrancy laws and unauthorized mobility across colonial borders in New Zealand from 1866 to 1910
Cathy Coleborne (University of Waikato, New Zealand)
Mobility offers scholars a new lens through which to view vagrancy in colonial settings. The movement of people was the defining feature of the colonial period. It was regulated and policed by lawmakers and institutional authorities, and was constituted through and by gender, class, and ethnicity. Vagrancy laws also kept mobility, prostitution, and relationships between Europeans and Māori in view of the law. These laws in both colonial New Zealand and across the Tasman in the Australian colonies derived from the Vagrancy Act of 1824 (UK). Without a history of Poor Laws, and with only fledgling systems of welfare and charity, colonial governments could not apply this 1824 law directly to the colonies. New Zealand’s Vagrant Act of 1866 was a flexible law, one used to arrest people on a mere suspicion of being somehow ‘disorderly’. There was one very specific difference which set the colonial legislation apart from its imperial model from the 1830s: the Vagrant Act contained a provision to prosecute vagrant Europeans who were viewed to be consorting with Māori or ‘aboriginal natives’. This paper proposes that the vagrancy law was a ‘central mechanism’ of the colonial project, and was integral to the creation of knowledge about people and populations, allocating control and constructing social difference. It situates evidence from the legal archive to form new interpretations of vagrancy and its history.
Armchair geography: The fabrication of an “immobile” culture of geographical exploration in the nineteenth century
Natalie Cox (The University of Warwick / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), UK)
In his 1905 Essay The Sphere and Uses of Geography, Sir Clements Markham declared “an armchair geographer is not much good without practical experience in the field”. Through the nineteenth century, geographical exploration came to be defined by the “practical experience” of moving across unknown spaces. In contrast, armchair geography was categorised by its stationary status, with its practitioners theorising and constructing maps without physically going there. This paper argues that the spatial dialectic between the bound location of the armchair practitioner and the mediating mobility of the explorer was far from fixed. It works to expose the cultural identity of ‘armchair geography’ and this fabricated dichotomy of mobile/immobile that simplifies the emergent culture of exploration in the nineteenth century. Taking the newly formed Royal Geographical Society as its focus, the paper examines the position of armchair practitioners in contributing to, and challenging, the coordination of geographical knowledge in service of the imperial state and its promotion as a science of empire. Despite not travelling, the armchair geographer is recovered here as instrumental in initiating and driving exploratory and expansionist efforts. This paper draws and complicates the entanglement of scholarship, science and imperial effort in the history of nineteenth-century geographical exploration.
William Macintosh’s Travels: colonial mobility and the circulation of knowledge
Innes Keighren (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper takes as its focus the imperial career of a hitherto under-researched Scots plantation manager, travel writer, and political agitator, William Macintosh. It seeks to show how geographical mobility within and between Britain’s colonies in the Caribbean and India, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, shaped Macintosh’s political perspective and his view of individual and indigenous rights. The paper will consider, moreover, how Macintosh’s ideas and radical political philosophy were mobilised through pamphlet publishing and book authorship. In attending, particularly, to the production and circulation of his 1782 volume Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the paper will trace the uneven mobility—between Britain, continental Europe, and North America—of the ideas it contained.
Networks of Knowledge Mobility Within Eighteenth Century British Imperial Militarism
Huw J. Davies (King’s College London, UK)
Eighteenth-century military personnel were among the most travelled of the British Empire. Historiographical analysis has obviously tended to focus on their military exploits, while disregarding their often extensive cultural and scientific interests. Although frequently tinged with racial prejudices that were prevalent in eighteenth century militarism, many officers made extensive observations of the cultures and peoples they encountered. This knowledge was used in a variety of ways, ranging from altruistic individual-improvement, through to militaristic collective-improvement. In 2004, Natasha Glaisyer argued that if empire could be ‘thought of as a set of networks of exchange then … the scientific, cultural, social, political, and intellectual histories of empire’ were inextricably linked (Glaisyer, 2004). It is curious that the military dimension is not considered. Utilising archival sources, including military diaries and travel journals, from America, Europe and Asia, this papers analyses the interaction of military personnel within networks of knowledge exchange and examines how knowledge and ideas were transmitted within and between different parts of Britain’s expanding eighteenth-century empire. It suggests that these networks facilitated understanding within the military of unfamiliar cultures, and that ultimately this knowledge was frequently helpful in facilitating, whether for good or ill, Britain’s imperial expansion and control.