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Regeneration of Empire: Agrarian Vision and Philanthropic Colonisation in H. Rider Haggard's Novels

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posted on 2021-11-22, 20:04 authored by Clark, Sarah

This thesis focuses on H. Rider Haggard’s fictional use of philanthropic colonisation to illustrate his vision of agriculturally regenerating the British Empire. Haggard’s panacea for poverty, unemployment, urban crowding, and tenuous control of imperial holdings relies on returning people back to the land. Retraining people to become farmers is the solution to all these issues; philanthropic colonisation is the mode through which his vision would come to fruition. Between 1896-1919, Haggard’s depictions of Empire shift from semi-stable to precarious—a sign of his public work as an agricultural reformer influencing his fiction. I argue in this thesis that focusing on three novels, The Wizard (1896), The Ghost Kings (1908), and When the World Shook (1919), written during Haggard’s work as an agricultural reformer, provides a scope in which to watch Haggard’s agrarian vision develop, climax, and fade. I analyse Haggard’s use of philanthropic colonisation to reflect the desired virtues of his agrarian vision as well as the charitable endeavours which expand or prolong the Empire’s reach.   Chapter one, “‘The Rider Haggard of the New Crusade:’ Philanthropy and Declining Civilisations,” traces the degradation of Haggard’s hopes to regenerate the Empire through philanthropic colonisation. In The Ghost Kings, Haggard uses Rachel’s charity to extend the Empire and to demonstrate the effect one individual’s virtue can make in saving or destroying a civilisation; in When the World Shook, Haggard shows the depth of imperial corruption through the decay of Christian missions. Through Arbuthnot and Oro, Haggard struggles to understand the fate of the Empire; using both characters to grasp the concept of civilisation, Haggard concludes that although the Empire has serious flaws, it is ultimately worth trying to save.   Chapter two, “Zealot, Renegade, and Reformer: Haggard’s Vision for the Empire,” uses Gerald Monsman’s idea of Haggard as a “heretic in disguise” to look at how Haggard utilises Christian missionary characters to propagate ideas of imperial regeneration. The move between zealot, renegade, and reformer character types reveals Haggard’s developing sense—from the late 1890s through to 1919—that the Empire needs to be rejuvenated.   Chapter three, “The Role of Condescension in Interracial Friendship,” explores how Haggard’s vision of a rebirth for the Empire is endangered by interracial friendships. Friendship strips away the prescribed roles given to both coloniser and native, allowing for something more intimate to develop. Thus, any interaction between a white and black person was socially scripted—language borrowed from philanthropic condescension. It is the act of condescension that enables interaction between a coloniser and native; only when deviating from prescribed roles does friendship become a possibility.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Title

Regeneration of Empire

Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Grener, Adam; Stafford, Jane