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The Absent-Minded ImperialistsEmpire, Society, and Culture in Britain$
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Bernard Porter

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299591

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299591.001.0001

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Not in Front of the Servants

Not in Front of the Servants

(p.115) 6 Not in Front of the Servants
The Absent-Minded Imperialists

Bernard Porter

Oxford University Press

In the early and mid-19th century, the British empire was not a ‘people's’ empire. Those who say it was, or that imperialism pervaded culture and society in Britain generally during this period, are simply wrong. Either that, or they are deliberately excluding the 70–80% of people who made up the Victorian working classes: much as the Victorian middle classes did, of course — ‘culture’ was generally taken to mean ‘high’ culture then, and one of the commonest usages of the word ‘society’ was simply to denote people high up the social scale. Patriotism, in any form, even the most cleverly disguised, was not taught in schools. It follows that a regard for the empire was not either. In fact, the topic was deliberately avoided. This may have been a unique feature of the British educational system, by comparison with all other European and American ones at this time. One reason is that the standard of education for the working classes is generally poor.

Keywords:   patriotism, empire, society, middle classes, standard, education, working classes, school, imperialism

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