‘To Form a Correct Estimate of their Nothingness when Compared with It’: British Exhibitions of Military Technology in the Abyssinian and Ashanti Expeditions

Ryan Patterson
  • The Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, July 2016, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/03086534.2016.1210253

What is it about?

This paper examines the portrayal and reception of novel military technology as constructed spectacle in the popular coverage of the British Abyssinian (1868) and Ashanti (1873–74) expeditions. A series of cases are explored in which commanders attempted to frighten and subdue African allies and enemies through the mere presentation of technology, as are the interpretations and subsequent representations of African reactions which were made by British officers and journalists.

Why is it important?

The heart of what I am doing here is a study of Britain’s relationship with technology in the nineteenth-century and of how a culture’s understanding of technology affects their view of themselves, of “the Other,” and of geography and space. More specifically, I study Victorian Britain’s cultural interaction with technology and the symbolic uses to which this society employed “modern” devices – beyond the sheer practical and physical – to “create” spaces in the world (“savage” place, “civilized” place, colonial place, etc). I uncover the manifestations of this dynamic evident in the public engagement with technology when it was used “out there” on expedition.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2016.1210253

The following have contributed to this page: Dr. Ryan J Patterson