Download Britain’s Imperial Muse: The Classics, Imperialism, and the by C. Hagerman PDF

By C. Hagerman

Britain's Imperial Muse explores the classics' contribution to British imperialism and to the event of empire in India throughout the lengthy nineteenth century. It unearths the classics position as a foundational resource for optimistic conceptions of empire and a rhetorical arsenal utilized by commentators to justify conquest and domination, specially of India.

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Extra resources for Britain’s Imperial Muse: The Classics, Imperialism, and the Indian Empire, 1784–1914

Example text

And the anecdote implies a certain ‘reluctance’ to engage on his part. Yet he became an accomplished classicist and certainly knew his ancient history, despite his disappointing second-class degree at Oxford. More importantly, his education imbued him with a belief in classical antiquity’s ‘living influence’. This ensured that the specific knowledge of antiquity he had acquired would be applied to his own life, to the way he saw himself and the world, and, ultimately, to the decisions he took. At a minimum, his classical education gave him his first insight into the significance of the British Empire in India, and as he made clear later in the speech, inspired his sense of imperial duty.

We have already seen where most modern scholars would draw the line. They stress boys’ antipathy towards the classics, the pedagogical obsession with composition and memory work, poor teaching, large class sizes and their inevitable corollaries, indolence, distraction, and widespread cheating. Each of the specific criticisms has merit. Yet each can be answered, at least to the point where it is necessary to qualify the representation of classical education as completely disastrous, with the result that those for whom it constituted a truly formative experience assume a more prominent place in our overall understanding of classical education.

176 As the poet and renowned philhellene Shelley put it while haranguing ‘the rulers of the civilized world’ for their ‘apathy’ toward ‘the descendants of that nation to which they owe their civilization’: We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece. 177 There is no reason to consider this a cynical distortion; it was a perfectly conventional assessment. C. B. 178 According to most 18th- and 19th-century accounts, the triumphs of Greece and Rome over threatening rivals were at least as important as 40 Britain’s Imperial Muse Greece’s foundational contribution to Western civilization.

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