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Empire and Education in Africa

The Shaping of a Comparative Perspective


Edited By Peter Kallaway and Rebecca Swartz

Empire and Education in Africa brings together a rich body of scholarship on the history of education in colonial Africa. It provides a unique contribution to the historiography of education in different African countries and a useful point of entry for scholars new to the field of African colonial education. The collection includes case studies from South Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar, French West Africa (Afrique Occidentale Française) and Tanzania (then Tanganyika). It will therefore prove invaluable for scholars in the histories of French, British and German colonialism in Africa. The book examines similarities and differences in approaches to education across a broad geographical and chronological framework, with chapters focusing on the period between 1830 and 1950. The chapters highlight some central concerns in writing histories of education that transcend geographic or imperial boundaries. The text addresses the relationship between voluntary societies’ role in education provision and state education. The book also deals with ‘adapted’ education: what kind of education was appropriate to African people or African contexts, and how did this differ across and between colonial contexts? Finally, many of the chapters deal with issues of gender in colonial education, showing how issues of gender were central to education provision in Africa.
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Chapter Four: ‘A Test of Civilisation’? Shakespeare, the Anglican Church and Mission Education in Victorian Grahamstown


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‘A Test OF Civilisation’?

Shakespeare, the Anglican Church and Mission Education in Victorian Grahamstown


In the nineteenth century nothing symbolised Englishness so much as Shakespeare, increasingly invented—as the century wore on—as a national cultural symbol. Along with other manifestations of Englishness, and the English language, Shakespeare was exported to the colonies, particularly those expanding areas of white settlement where Shakespeare was read, performed and studied in schools, just as in Britain. Towards the end of the century visiting companies brought a flavour of the London stage to North America, India, Australia and New Zealand. And to South Africa, too. Here, perhaps more than in the other colonies of white settlement, Shakespeare was associated with maintaining the values and culture of civilisation in a place, and at a time, where this was perceived as being under threat. Here, it has been argued, can be found Shakespeare as archetypal symbol of cultural imperialism.1

Yet there are also alternative Shakespeares, other ways of viewing Shakespeare’s global dissemination. Scholarship has turned from a preoccupation with Shakespeare as cultural imperialism, an inevitable accompaniment to imperial expansion, to an interest in the ways in which people have responded to Shakespeare, exercising their own agency, bringing their own cultural readings and values to the encounter. In some situations Shakespeare, it is said, is appropriated, turned around—and used—by those who have come to his plays...

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