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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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Culture and Imperialism

Culture and Imperialism

(p.134) 7 Culture and Imperialism
The Absent-Minded Imperialists

Bernard Porter

Oxford University Press

There are almost no ‘good’ books, poems, paintings, sculptures, musical compositions, or great buildings from the early and middle years of the 19th century that have a significant imperial component to them: works that one cannot imagine still existing almost identically if the British empire had never been. In this respect at least, art truly reflected the society around it. Culture in this ‘high’ sense may not be a reliable mirror of society in any place or time. This certainly applies to the cultural artefacts that have ‘survived’ to the present day, in the sense of still being valued. Imperialism could have been excluded for similar reasons. It was a field of action, not of art or thought; of crude physicality rather than sensitive feeling. The true literati spurned it for this reason, out of a kind of snobbery, claims Martin Green.

Keywords:   empire, art, society, culture, imperialism, Martin Green

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