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Stranger in a strange land: British imperial officers in Canada and the Australian colonies, ca.1870-1914

Dates:
  • Mon 04 Nov 2013 10.00 - 12.00
  Add to Calendar 2013-11-04 10:00 2013-11-04 12:00 Europe/Paris Stranger in a strange land: British imperial officers in Canada and the Australian colonies, ca.1870-1914

In the decades prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, more than thirty British (also known as imperial) officers were hired by the self-governing colonies to command and organize local defence forces. Recruited from the British army and subject to local control, their tasks were to advice and impart military knowledge to the colonial defence force. It was considered to be part of a larger military burden-sharing process that witnessed the settler-colonies and Britain seeking a closer cooperation on the defence of the Empire. At the outset, the arrangement seemed to benefit all parties involved, as both Britain and the settler-colonies wanted to raise the latter’s level of military capability and the imperial officer was given a unique career opportunity in a colonial society that mirrored his own. Why then was the relationship between imperial officers and the settler-colonies often fraught with conflict?
To answer this question the dissertation brings together empirical material related to those imperial officers who served in the Australian colonies and Canada. Included in the study is a closer examination of the connections between the British officer corps, from which these officers were recruited, and late-Victorian ideas about the future structure of the empire, and how it influenced and shaped the world-view of individual officers. It created a powerful set of expectations and assumptions among imperial officers that were shattered on contact with the realities of command. Little common understanding existed between the imperial officer and the various colonial authorities of his role. They also disagreed on a fundamental level of what he could carry out as a military adviser. This lack of agreement originated to some degree in differing opinions on imperial defence as a whole and with regards to strategic priorities seen from the national contexts. But, it also reflected a clash between two fundamentally different mind-sets with regards to the role of the soldier, a military force, and the civil military-relationship.

Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

In the decades prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, more than thirty British (also known as imperial) officers were hired by the self-governing colonies to command and organize local defence forces. Recruited from the British army and subject to local control, their tasks were to advice and impart military knowledge to the colonial defence force. It was considered to be part of a larger military burden-sharing process that witnessed the settler-colonies and Britain seeking a closer cooperation on the defence of the Empire. At the outset, the arrangement seemed to benefit all parties involved, as both Britain and the settler-colonies wanted to raise the latter’s level of military capability and the imperial officer was given a unique career opportunity in a colonial society that mirrored his own. Why then was the relationship between imperial officers and the settler-colonies often fraught with conflict?
To answer this question the dissertation brings together empirical material related to those imperial officers who served in the Australian colonies and Canada. Included in the study is a closer examination of the connections between the British officer corps, from which these officers were recruited, and late-Victorian ideas about the future structure of the empire, and how it influenced and shaped the world-view of individual officers. It created a powerful set of expectations and assumptions among imperial officers that were shattered on contact with the realities of command. Little common understanding existed between the imperial officer and the various colonial authorities of his role. They also disagreed on a fundamental level of what he could carry out as a military adviser. This lack of agreement originated to some degree in differing opinions on imperial defence as a whole and with regards to strategic priorities seen from the national contexts. But, it also reflected a clash between two fundamentally different mind-sets with regards to the role of the soldier, a military force, and the civil military-relationship.


Location:
Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Contact:
Kathy Wolf Fabiani - Send a mail

Defendant:
Eirik Brazier

Supervisor:
Prof. Dirk Moses

Examiner:
Lucy Riall (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
Professor William Mulligan (University College, Dublin)
Prof. Stuart James Ward (University of Copenhagen)
 

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