The historical geographies of European childhood in colonial Africa : children's lives in Nyasaland 1889-1964

Cross, Bronia Meg

April 2018

Thesis or dissertation

© 2018 Bronia Meg Cross. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The research presented in this thesis recovers the experiences of European children who grew up in colonial Nyasaland, now known as Malawi, in the late nineteenth and early-mid twentieth centuries (1889-1964). These geographical histories of childhood contribute to an increased awareness of the unique spatiotemporal experiences of those who grew up in the spaces of the British Empire. Through a multi-method approach, this thesis reports rigorous qualitative research founded upon thirty-six original semi-structured interviews with Europeans who grew up in Nyasaland, plus extensive archive research and analysis of the memoirs and autobiographies of those who grew up under imperialism. It explores a variety of contexts in which British and other white European (e.g. Greek and Italian) children grew up: from the microgeographies of their homes in Nyasaland and their relationships with the African natural environment, to their wider experiences of segregated educational institutions and the racialised structures of colonial society. In each context the research considers European children’s sociospatial agency through colonial time and space; it also explores the unique construction of their hybridised identities. Further, it employs postcolonial theory to underpin discussions of racial and national identity and conflicting notions of ‘home’ and belonging. Hence, the project broadens understandings of the late British colonialism of the twentieth century. It critiques simplistic, masculinist and adultist representations of the imperial archive by nuancing, and adding to, knowledge of the various social groups who constituted colonial society. It reinforces thriving interest in the historical geographies of childhood, and proposes a more variegated and original understanding of how European children’s lived experiences in colonial contexts can inform and enhance understandings of British colonialism.

School of Environmental Sciences, The University of Hull
Robson, Elsbeth; Atkinson, David, 1969-; Wall, Rosemary
Sponsor (Organisation)
University of Hull; Royal Geographical Society (Great Britain)
Qualification level
Qualification name
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