King's College London
Online Exhibitions
Representing the unfamiliar: Photography in the British Empire 1866-1938

Colonial continuity

A photograph of the Lord Mayor’s show, London, passing through Ludgate Circus at the end of the 19th century, with huge crowds present and explanatory textA photograph of the Lord Mayor’s show, London, passing through Ludgate Circus, at the end of the 19th century, with explanatory textPhotographs showing two African ceremonies, with groups gathered round and explanatory textPhotographs showing two African ceremonies, with explanatory textBritish society, following the pattern of the monarchy, became more distinctively imperial during the latter stages of 19th century.

As society and British politics took on this greater imperial character, efforts were made to familiarise the British public with their imperial possessions. Moreover, there were efforts to further imperial sentiment, hoping to re-centre British domestic politics on this worldwide scale, in part by presenting colonial territories and peoples as an exotic extension of British domestic society.

Works such as The Queen’s empire (1897-99) two photographs from which are reproduced here, are a good example of these efforts.

Published to coincide with Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 with another volume appearing in 1899, this book presents colonial territories as continuous with recognisably British phenomena.

Here, a quintessentially British event, the Lord Mayor’s Show, is portrayed next to two African ceremonies. This was done in a such a way as to present what was deemed to be the ‘primitive’ nature of the colonial ceremony to the reading public, but also to suggest a deeper continuity of ceremonial behaviour between the two.

As the introduction states: ‘the clue to which the reader should attach himself, is the existence of difference side by side with the resemblance.’

It is no coincidence that these overtures were being made in relation to Victoria’s Jubilee. The monarchy stood at the centre of calls for ‘Greater Britain.’ Proponents of a more interconnected empire, particularly a white Anglo-Saxon empire, saw Victoria and the monarchy as what Duncan Bell describes as the ‘linchpin of a sense of global identity.’

Therefore, in the monarchy, the Empire was seen to be united. All members of the Empire, voluntary or involuntary, shared a place as fellow subjects of the Queen.

Link to King's College London catalogue record:

The Queen's empire: a pictorial and descriptive record. London: Cassell and Co., 1897-99

ARCHIOS™ | Total time:0.0298 s | Source:cache | Platform: NX