During a major overhaul of British imperial policy following the Napoleonic Wars, an escaped convict reinvented himself as an improbable activist, renowned for his exposés of government misconduct and corruption in the Cape Colony and New South Wales. Charting scandals unleashed by the man known variously as Alexander Loe Kaye and William Edwards, Imperial Underworld offers a radical new account of the legal, constitutional and administrative transformations that unfolded during the British colonial order of the 1820s. In a narrative rife with daring jail breaks, infamous agents provocateurs, and allegations of sexual deviance, Professor Kirsten McKenzie argues that such colourful and salacious aspects of colonial administrations cannot be separated from the real business of political and social change. The book instead highlights the importance of taking gossip, paranoia, factional infighting and political spin seriously to show the extent to which ostensibly marginal figures and events influenced the transformation of the nineteenth-century British Empire.Read more
- Offers a new interpretation of a significant, but contentious period in imperial history
- Draws together the histories of colonial South Africa, Australia and Britain
- Paints a vivid picture of the more salacious side of contemporary politics to offer new perspectives on imperial reform
Reviews & endorsements
'Imperial Underworld covers much ground and generally does so exceptionally well. … narratively well balanced and analytically precise. In using the labyrinthine life of William Edwards as an entry point to explore lesser-known aspects of colonial policymaking, Kirsten McKenzie makes a valuable contribution to scholarly discussions on the unwieldy nature of reform, the role of scandal in colonial societies, and the negotiated qualities of rule between colony and metropole.' Oliver Charbonneau, H-Empire
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- Date Published: January 2016
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107070738
- length: 332 pages
- dimensions: 237 x 158 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.61kg
- contains: 10 b/w illus. 1 map
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Introduction: 'a soul reared in the lap of liberty'
1. 'Plausible and audacious frauds': the theatre of imperial politics and reform
2. 'A daemon behind the curtain': reputation, parliamentary politics and political spin
3. Green-bag-makers and blood-hunters: information management and espionage
4. 'In return for services rendered': liberated Africans or prize(d) slaves?
5. 'The dishonorable Court of Gothamites': corrupting abolition
6. 'Under the cloak of liberty': seditious libel, state security and the rights of 'free-born Englishmen'
7. 'Unruly subjects': political removal and the problem of colonial constitutions
8. 'A conspiracy of the darkest and foulest nature': the placard affair
9. Bring up the body: the many escapes of 'Alexander Edwards'
Epilogue: 'an infamous end'.
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