Martial Races: The Military, Race and Masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857-1914

TitleMartial Races: The Military, Race and Masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857-1914
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsStreets-Salter, Heather
Number of Pages252
PublisherManchester University Press
CityManchester, UK

This book explores how and why Scottish Highlanders, Punjabi Sikhs, and Nepalese Gurkhas became identified as the British Empire's fiercest, most manly soldiers in nineteenth century discourse. As 'martial races' these men were believed to possess a biological or cultural disposition to the racial and masculine qualities necessary for the arts of war. Because of this, they were used as icons to promote recruitment in British and Indian armies—a phenomenon with important social and political effects in India, in Britain, and in the armies of the Empire. Martial Races bridges regional studies of South Asia and Britain while straddling the fields of racial theory, masculinity, imperialism, identity politics, and military studies. Of particular importance is the way it exposes the historical instability of racial categories based on colour and its insistence that historically specific ideologies of masculinity helped form the logic of imperial defence, thus wedding gender theory with military studies in unique ways. Moreover, Martial Races challenges the marginalisation of the British Army in histories of Victorian popular culture, and demonstrates the army's enduring impact on the regional cultures of the Highlands, the Punjab and Nepal.

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