1st Edition

A Cultural History of Firearms in the Age of Empire

Edited By Giacomo Macola, Karen Jones Copyright 2013

    Firearms have been studied by imperial historians mainly as means of human destruction and material production. Yet firearms have always been invested with a whole array of additional social and symbolical meanings. By placing these meanings at the centre of analysis, the essays presented in this volume extend the study of the gun beyond the confines of military history and the examination of its impact on specific colonial encounters. By bringing cultural perspectives to bear on this most pervasive of technological artefacts, the contributors explore the densely interwoven relationships between firearms and broad processes of social change. In so doing, they contribute to a fuller understanding of some of the most significant consequences of British and American imperial expansions. Not the least original feature of the book is its global frame of reference. Bringing together historians of different periods and regions, A Cultural History of Firearms in the Age of Empire overcomes traditional compartmentalisations of historical knowledge and encourages the drawing of novel and illuminating comparisons across time and space.

    Contents: Introduction: new perspectives on firearms in the age of empire, Karen Jones, Giacomo Macola and David Welch; Part I Adopting Guns: Environment, Class and Gender on the Imperial Frontier: Guns, violence and identity on the trans-Appalchian American frontier, Matthew C. Ward; Guns, masculinity and marksmanship: codes of killing and conservation in the 19th-century American West, Karen Jones; Fishers of men and hunters of lion: British missionaries and big game hunting in colonial Africa, Jason Bruner; Cockney sportsmen? Recreational shooting in London and beyond, 1800-1870, Matthew Cragoe. Part II Resisting Guns: Edged Weapons and the Politics of Indigenous Honour: ’They disdain firearms’: the relationship between guns and the Ngoni of eastern Zambia to the early 20th century, Giacomo Macola; ’Hardly a place for a nervous old gentleman to take a stroll’; firearms and the Zulu during the Anglo-Zulu War, Jack Hogan; Steel and blood: for a cultural history of edged weapons between the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, Gianluca Pastori. Part III Controlling Guns: Gun Laws, Race and Citizenship: The battle of Dubai: firearms on Britain’s Arabian frontier, 1906-1915, Simon Ball; ’Give him a gun, NOW’: soldiers but not quite soldiers in South Africa’s Second World War, 1939-1945, Bill Nasson; ’Better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog’: African-Americans and guns, 1866-1941, Kevin Yuill. Part IV Celebrating Guns: Firearms in Popular and Military Cultures: Retrospective icon: the Martini-Henry, Ian F.W. Beckett; ’The shooting of the Boers was extraordinary’: British views of Boer marksmanship in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, Spencer Jones; Irish paramilitarism and gun cultures, 1910-1921, Timothy Bowman; Bibliography; Index.


    Karen Jones is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Kent, and specializes in US and Environmental history. She has published widely on environmental issues and the American West specifically, and is currently completing a manuscript for the University of Colorado Press on hunting, nature and the nineteenth-century American West. Giacomo Macola is Senior Lecturer in African History at the University of Kent. The author of numerous articles on Zambian history, his latest monograph is entitled Liberal Nationalism in Central Africa: A Biography of Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (2010). He is currently writing a social history of the gun in Central Africa to the early twentieth century. David Welch is Professor of Modern History and Director of the Centre for the Study of War, Propaganda and Society at the University of Kent. His books include Germany, Propaganda and Total War, 1914-1918 (2000) and The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (2002). He is the editor (with Jo Fox) of Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age (2012). His latest book, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, will be published in 2013 to coincide with opening of the British Library’s exhibition of the same name.

    ’This is a fascinating collection, spanning four continents. It shows how guns are not only for killing with, but also for thinking with, and so for creating identities, often masculine and often ethnic. I congratulate the authors and editors.’ Prof. dr. Robert Ross, Leiden University Institute for History