C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain (The C. L. R. James Archives)

C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain (The C. L. R. James Archives)

Christian Høgsbjerg

Language: English

Pages: 312

ISBN: 082235618X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain chronicles the life and work of the Trinidadian intellectual and writer C. L. R. James during his first extended stay in Britain, from 1932 to 1938. It reveals the radicalizing effect of this critical period on James's intellectual and political trajectory. During this time, James turned from liberal humanism to revolutionary socialism. Rejecting the "imperial Britishness" he had absorbed growing up in a crown colony in the British West Indies, he became a leading anticolonial activist and Pan-Africanist thinker. Christian Høgsbjerg reconstructs the circumstances and milieus in which James wrote works including his magisterial study The Black Jacobins. First published in 1938, James's examination of the dynamics of anticolonial revolution in Haiti continues to influence scholarship on Atlantic slavery and abolition. Høgsbjerg contends that during the Depression C. L. R. James advanced public understanding of the African diaspora and emerged as one of the most significant and creative revolutionary Marxists in Britain.

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specificities and peculiarities of “colonial Victorianism,” noting how James’s early Arnoldianism is a fine example of how distinctly nonegalitarian Victorian cultural categories could be taken up, transformed, and used for progressive ends by generations of British colonial subjects across Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. For Gikandi, what is particularly striking about the “productive contradictions” of Victorianism is “the unanticipated fact that forces, values, and cultures intended to

can be usefully seen through a comparison with Frantz Fanon, another towering West Indian revolutionary figure. David Macey, Fanon’s biographer, once described postcolonial studies as “a continuation of English literature by other means” and warned that “the danger is that Fanon will be absorbed into accounts of ‘the colonial experience’ that are so generalized as to obscure both the specific features of his work and the trajectory of his life.” Many studies of Fanon, Macey continued, focused

luck”) only to then return to all the old deference and racism in the pavilion. Given this, together with the state repression of overtly political anticolonial activism, it is not surprising that some cricket matches took on immensely powerful symbolic significance, not least when the island’s best “black” team, that of Shannon (with cricketers like Learie Constantine and Wilton St. Hill), played Queen’s Park. James recalls, “I had always seen cricket in a manner beyond the ordinary. Chiefly in

that it was “the ideological position of white cricketers and administrators that contest with England was essentially a non-­political event in which ‘cousins’ exchanged mutual admiration.”30 In 1923, for example, H. B. G. Austin, the white captain of the West Indies side touring Britain, said that he hoped his team “were worthy to belong to the Mother Country,” declaring there was “no more patriotic part of the Empire than the British West Indies, and . . . they wanted, they demanded to be left

from lunchtime on the first day. Some of their men would show good form, but that these teams should be challenging the England team as they did in a reasonable number of games was, and remains, inexplicable to anyone who considered the merits of the various players without prejudice. What is the explanation? There is none that I can think of. It most certainly is not a question of sheer cricketing ability. These touring sides are properly trounced by one or two of the best counties and often

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