Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects : British Malaya, 1786–1941

Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects : British Malaya, 1786–1941

'Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects' examines the stories of ordinary people to explore the internal workings of colonial rule. Chinese, Indians, and Malays learned about being British through the plantations, towns, schools, and newspapers of a modernizing colony. Yet they got mixed messages from the harsh, racial hierarchies of sugar and rubber estates, and cosmopolitan urban societies. Empire meant mobility, fluidity, and hybridity, as well as the enactment of racial privilege and rigid ethnic differences. Using sources ranging from administrative files, court transcripts and oral interviews to periodicals and material culture, Professor Lees explores the nature and development of colonial governance, and the ways in which Malayan residents experienced British rule in towns and plantations. This is an innovative study demonstrating how empire brought with it both oppression and economic opportunity, shedding new light on the shifting nature of colonial subjecthood and identity, as well as the memory and afterlife of empire.

"Originally conceived as two separate manuscripts, Lees' monograph uses Ho Enseng’s earlier notion of empires as hybrid spaces as a launching point to compare rural and urban lifeworlds under colonialism. Employing British Malaya as a case study to interrogate the ‘internal workings’ of colonial power, the author convincingly demonstrates that relationships between rulers and the ruled were as complex as they were conflicted. … The questions she asks will interest social historians working on imperialism, urbanization, migration, labour, and commodity production: questions regarding the extent to which colonialism nurtured social mobility, cross-cultural learning, and new belongings within diasporas." — Geoffrey K. Pakiam in 'Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia'

Lynn Hollen Lees is Professor of History Emerita at the University of Pennsylvania and a Past President of the Urban History Association. She has written extensively on cities and social history in Europe and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rotary Foundation.

Author Lynn Hollen Lees
Cover Paperback
Pages 359
Published 2017

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Tags: Colonialism, British Empire, Malaya