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Research project

Crossroads of empire: Britain, the Cape of Good Hope, and the maritime movement of ideas, 1790-1820

  • Lead researcher:
  • Research funder:
    British Academy
  • Status:
    Not active

Project overview

Shortly after his arrival at the Cape of Good Hope in 1797, Lord Macartney observed its vital ‘geographical situation’ for the British Empire. For Macartney, the first British governor of the newly acquired colony, the Cape ‘formed the master link of connection between the western and eastern world’. But how did that ‘link’ work in practice? What role did the movement of ideas, information and ideologies play in this? And how did the maritime connections of Britain’s empire help to transport, transfer and transpose these? This project will draw on an extensive array of primary sources to explore the impact of the distribution and dissemination of information on the British presence in the southern reaches of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. It will investigate the inherently maritime nature of the early British presence there, and the possibilities and challenges this offered. And, in doing so, the project will underline the central location of this ‘peripheral’ space in the development of the wider British Empire.


Lead researcher

Dr John Mcaleer

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • The British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • The East India Company and its worlds.
  • Islands and empires.