On foreign soil: Immigrants and the past in Victorian Britain

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Abstract

The essay examines immigrant perceptions and constructions of the past in Victorian Britain. It takes into account memorial practices and historical discourses from across a range of national, political and professional backgrounds, in order to highlight the points of conjunction between communities and cultural figures rarely, if ever, brought together in Victorian scholarship. To do this, it adopts a dual methodology, combining historical and biographical overviews drawn from different disciplinary areas with close attention to primary textual examples. Case studies of European revolutionaries such as Alexander Herzen, Peter Kropotkin and Karl Marx, and American expatriate authors such as Henry James and Mark Twain, are thus situated in a broader analysis of the production and consumption of private and public histories, inflected by considerations of ideology, degrees of integration and types of relation to the host society. The foreigners who found themselves on British soil in the Victorian period created a web of relationships with memory and history, and only by engaging with the breadth and variety, as well as the specificity, of those relationships, can we begin to unravel the web’s complexity. The essay takes the ‘global turn’ in Victorian studies in a different direction, and may be read as the first step towards a new theory of the Victorian immigrant experience of the past, based on an interrogation of the memory/history binary itself.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbervcy060
Pages (from-to)241-260
JournalJournal of Victorian Culture
Volume24
Issue number2
Early online date11 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Keywords

  • immigration
  • past
  • history
  • memory
  • Alexander Herzen
  • Peter Kropotkin
  • Karl Marx
  • Henry James
  • Mark Twain

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