Improvisations of Empire: Thomas Pringle in Scotland, the Cape Colony and London, 1789–1834

New book by SU English Department Research Associate, Dr Matthew Shum

Improvisations of Empire is the first extended critical, biographical and historiographical account of the varied career and capacities of Thomas Pringle, the journalist, editor, “Scottish Romantic poet, South African settler and London-based advocate for abolition” (Jason Rudy, University of Maryland). For scholars of South African literature, “Pringle has been a long-time icon of South African liberalism,” and this “new study presents a more complex figure caught up in the contradictions of empire by a career that comprised poetry, settler propaganda and abolitionism. Equally in command of close reading and relocations that include Scotland, Cape Colony and mid-nineteenth-century London, Improvisations of Empire is a truly eye-opening study” (Jon Mee, University of York). Published by Anthem Press (New York), in its series Advances in African Cultural Studies, Shum’s volume “shows how a careful reading of a literary oeuvre can transform how we think about the legacies of the colonial era. It rescues Pringle from the realms of liberal mythmaking, casting new light on a historical period in which nation-building, class-consciousness, abolition, Christian evangelism and colonialism were deeply entangled” (Peter D. McDonald, University of Oxford). Improvisations of Empire “is likely to remain the definitive reading of Thomas Pringle for many years to come” (David Attwell, University of York).

With the permission of the Skotnes family, the front cover of the book features an image by Cecil Skotnes, from a series of large painted panels housed in the 1820 Settlers Monument in Makhanda (Grahamstown).

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