Indigenous Interlocutors: Networks of imperial protest and humanitarianism in the mid-nineteenth century

Zoe Laidlaw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


This chapter explores the experiences of a group of little-known colonized subjects who travelled, of their own volition, to mid-nineteenth century Britain. Tapping into existing webs of religion, humanitarian activism, science, and family, as well as creating their own transnational networks of connection, these people not only challenged imperial assumptions about non-Europeans, but also attempted variously to combat or to ameliorate British colonialism. Their study illuminates the contradictions inherent in British humanitarian positions on empire, and the accommodations and compromises made by colonized – or other non-European – subjects in order to command a metropolitan audience and gain access to imperial authorities. While the chapter’s subjects came variously from the Americas, Africa and Asia, and each travelled to Britain with different priorities, all shared occupied a position viewed by contemporaries as ‘in between’ white Britons and colonized non-Europeans – whether through mixed ancestry, conversion to Christianity, or assimilation to European notions of ‘civilization’. The chapter’s combination of a transnational view that ranges across and beyond the British Empire with a series of individual life stories works to disrupt geographical and conceptual frameworks relating to both ‘empire’ and ‘indigenous’ identity. Moreover, its conclusions explicitly undermine the idea that British government and public alike were locked into accepting their right to colonize, while offering a nuanced examination of colonial subjects’ responses to colonialism and British society, ranging from advocating assimilation, to hopes for amelioration, to more strident anti-colonialism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous Networks
Subtitle of host publicationMobility, Connections and Exchange
EditorsJane Carey, Jane Lydon
Place of PublicationNew York and London
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781315766065
ISBN (Print)9780415730426, 9780367208721
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jun 2014

Cite this