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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


The Victorian Era in Great Britain was a time period of dramatic change. The Industrial Revolution was altering the social and economic fabric of society. Socially, Victorians were confronted with new theories that challenged their religious beliefs. The British Isles were progressing steadily in creating a national identity. Finally, the existence of the British Empire made imperialism a factor that cannot be ignored. Yet, many historians have pointed out that the history of the British metropole itself is often disconnected from the political and cultural history of the Empire. It is within this conversation that this project seeks to find a place. This project advocates for the ideological existence of what made an ideal British citizen in an imperial context. The term “Citizen of the Empire” is being used deliberately in this context to describe this ideal British citizen, which existed in conjunction with imperial culture. This ideal identity was one that stemmed from middle class Victorian beliefs about morality, physicality, gender, national identity, and race. This paper attempts to utilize all of these thematic concepts in light of current trends in the fields of world history, British imperial history, and postcolonial discourses. The Citizen of the Empire ideal can be found in numerous cultural sources. However, this paper will investigate two types of primary sources that deal with children. Victorian children were not isolated from these cultural treads. Rather this ideal was so strong that it was inherently embedded in the discourse surrounding various Victorian youth organizations. Furthermore, the Citizen of the Empire ideal can be found in countless examples of children’s literature. This imperial ideal stemmed from a proper combination of middle class Victorian beliefs surrounding morality and physicality. Additionally, being a Citizen of the Empire meant conforming to middle class Victorian gender roles. All of these middle class expectations helped to create an ideal, proper, and thereby superior, model of a British citizen within the metropole. Finally, this superior model was used as a justification for the creation of a hierarchical relationship between the British and other cultures. Thus, the fusion of national identity and race produced a sense of cultural superiority which encouraged the civilizing mission and outright racism.

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