Date of Completion
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
This work deals with one way in which imperialism could be convincingly rationalized to average people who had little to no substantial, direct investment in it and who may have understood it as something that went against their values as Britons. Through media like the theater, Britons who were sympathetic to empire-building could reframe it as a patriotic and humanitarian endeavor, connect it to their audiences’ national identity, and could present those audiences with respectable models for imperial citizenship. Public debate about Britain’s expanding empire bled heavily into the theaters, where authors could stage their own immediate contributions to the debate in ways to which a general audience could relate. Over the course of the Restoration and eighteenth century, the overlap between national identity and imperialism become more pronounced. While many Restoration plays portray other cultures, including those of distant English settlements, as threats to English purity, and imperialism as the potential vehicle for that threat, plays from c. 1690 to c. 1790 increasingly portray other cultures as part of an imperial family headed by Britain, a nation that nurtures and disciplines its subordinate nations like a husband or father would nurture and discipline immediate family members. By the end of the eighteenth century, the diversity of people who call themselves British have rendered more traditional markers of national identity useless—being British lies in a performance of certain social values and a benevolently patriarchal relationship with members of the cultures against which Britons define themselves at the time.
Ryer, Jennifer, "The Good Imperialists: Empire, National Identity, and Gender in British Theater, 1660-1790" (2015). Doctoral Dissertations. 770.