Chapter 13: Abstract

The “White Man,” Race and Imperial War during the Long Nineteenth Century

Marilyn Lake (University of Melbourne, The School of Historical and Philosophical Studies)


This chapter explores the transnational formation of the gendered and racialized figure of the "white man" in the constitutive relations of colonial conquest and imperial rule across the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. The self-styled bearer of a "civilizing mission" to Indigenous peoples, the "white man" became a perpetrator of violence and atrocity as imperial rule and colonial settlement encountered continuing resistance and guerrilla warfare. In the process the older ideal of "moral manliness" gave way to a more modern conception of masculinity characterized by toughness, aggression and a capacity to use firearms to “pacify the natives.” Defined by power, even as he was haunted by his vulnerability, the “white man” engaged in systematic denial and disavowal, evasion and euphemism and narratives of nation-building that justified his right to rule.


Colonialism; Empire; Indigenous People; Nineteenth-century Militarism; Race; Violence; Gender; Masculinities; White Man; Britain; Canada; South Africa; Southeast Asia; United States.

In Part II “Wars of Nations and Empires” of the Oxford Handbook of Gender and War since 1600.

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