Sowing the Seeds of Empire: Education & Identity Construction in England and France, 1870-1914

Burdett, Christopher Lee, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Smith, Michael, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Bird, Colin, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Lynch, Allen, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Within International Relations, education has received little attention as factor that shapes identities. Where education is mentioned, the treatment is often casual and not very systematic. This dissertation seeks to address these shortcomings. The author argues that education influences what we think and do by imparting understandings of the world and our place within it, and by cultivating skills that enable us to assume social, economic and political roles. To observe the mechanism by which education plays a role, the author executes a process trace of education in England and France from 1870 until 1914. At the time, education was an active concern to policymakers in both countries, and it was consciously deployed for the purposes of identity construction. Britain and France were also Great Powers with colonial interests abroad. This offers the opportunity to assess education against a backdrop of imperial expansion. The trace occurs in three stages. The first stage considers larger curricular and pedagogical trends in order to determine the content of education in England and France. The second narrows the focus to consider how empire was taught through history and geography textbooks. Finally, the third stage explores the linkages between education and the training of the élite, emphasizing roles associated with imperial administration and governance. The results indicate that education influenced identity in important ways. In England, the cognitive and functional processes worked to frame the British Empire as closely intertwined with a sense of Englishness. In contrast, French education tended to subordinate ii the Empire to purely nationalist concerns which, the author argues, served to reinforce a prevailing culture of ambivalence, if not antagonism, to the French Empire. This dissertation offers a novel, replicable approach to international politics and contributes to a burgeoning literature on identity. At the same time, it answers a call within the constructivist paradigm for greater insight into internal processes behind identity. This approach not only sheds light on the cases treated, but also provides a means to strengthen the constructivist contribution to the explanation of phenomena of interest to the field.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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