Building Better Britains?: Settler Societies in the British World, 1783-1920

Building Better Britains?: Settler Societies in the British World, 1783-1920

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By Cecilia Morgan
International Themes and Issues
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division © 2016
World Rights
232 Pages
ISBN 9781442607521
Published Sep 2016
ISBN 9781442608122
Published Sep 2016
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442607545
Published Sep 2016
Full purchase $19.95

The impact of empires and the lingering presence of colonialism continue to be major preoccupations for scholars in the twenty-first century. This concise text explores the spread of settler colonies within the British Empire over the course of the nineteenth century, specifically those in New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.

In Building Better Britains?, Cecilia Morgan examines how imperial powers reshaped the lives and landscapes of millions through colonial relationships with Indigenous peoples, and the processes of migration and settlement that facilitated the British Empire’s global expansion. Identity and culture in geographically diverse settler societies are compared, highlighting shared histories and the nuances that differentiated them. Morgan encourages readers to consider settler societies from multiple perspectives, including those of the colonists themselves. Eight maps and eight illustrations enhance the text, along with a bibliography and index.

Cecilia Morgan is Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She is the author of Commemorating Canada: History, Heritage, and Memory, 1850–1990s (2016), as well as Creating Colonial Pasts: History, Memory, and Commemoration in Southern Ontario, 1860–1980 (2015).

List of Illustrations



Introduction: Better Britains?: Settler Societies Within the British Empire 1783–1920

1. Colonial Frontiers and Contact Zones: Indigenous Peoples and Settler Encounters

2. “Peopling,” Settling, and Governing

3. Settler Economies: Local Contexts and Imperial Networks

4. Creating Civil Society

5. Creating Settler Identities

Conclusion: Better Britains?

Select Bibliography


The corpus of scholarship on the history and legacy of empires has been greatly enhanced by this wide-ranging and seamlessly structured comparative study. Building Better Britains? offers a nuanced, interrogative treatment of themes which at one level are familiar to any student of imperial history, but which warrant the deeper scrutiny provided by this carefully crafted and stimulating book.

Marjory Harper, University of Aberdeen

Building Better Britains? provides a comprehensive and insightful synthesis of recent research on the British world. The book surveys what it meant to be ‘British’ in this era, as revealed through such varied topics as migration, settler economies, private life and voluntary associations, and the relationship between settler nationalism and pan-imperial identities. It will be of interest to students of the British Empire, Indigenous-newcomer relations, and the histories of settlement colonies.

Daniel Gorman, University of Waterloo