2010

Authors

  • Juliette Bridgette Milner-Thornton Juliette Bridgette Milner-Thornton

In this study, I explore the creation of settler and colonial identities in the British Empire in Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) and their endurance to the present, however, I do not only focus on this theme. Five themes concurrently run throughout the thesis. To begin with, I explore the lingering haunting presence of the British Empire in the present-day life experiences of Zambia’s Coloured community. In 1928, in Northern Rhodesia, Governor Sir James Crawford Maxwell introduced biological assimilative policies and practices to the country. He advanced the biological assimilation into Northern Rhodesia’s predominant African community of ‘Eurafricans’ —the ‘Coloured’ progeny of British men and African women — in an attempt to breed out British lineages in African families. As a result of Maxwell’s colonial governance in Northern Rhodesia, the British Empire lingers on in the contemporary life experiences of Zambian Coloured people. I also explore the ongoing legacies of individual British men, particularly my British great-grandfather, Dr Sidney Spencer ‘Kachalola’ Broomfield, examining his imperial and colonial role, and especially his sexual role in producing the first generation of Eurafrican children. The second theme I explore in the thesis is the archive: I set out to read archival documents and widen the archive to include unconventional sources of evidence such as life narratives, and the personal memories and biographies of individual people including my ancestor Broomfield, who was a pioneer and explorer of Australia and Northern Rhodesia. Because of my family’s and my own place within Zambia’s and Australia’s (to a limited degree) national history, I interrogate my/our inhabitations as ‘subjects’ within this research project: my family is, and as a result I am, drawn into Northern Rhodesia’s history. The third theme I explore in this thesis is the networks of knowledge in the British Empire. I show that the empire constituted an intricate series of networks linking British officials to varying imperial sites and the metropole. The empire was connected through individual people’s mobility, careers and the sharing of ideas in the different sites to which they travelled, as well as their communications and visitations, in both official and unofficial capacities. For example, Governor Maxwell sought support from his fellow British officers in London and other sites of the British Empire (including the Gold Coast presentday Ghana) to advance the biological reabsorption of the Eurafrican (Coloured) offspring of British men and African women into Northern Rhodesia’s predominant African society. The fourth theme I explore in the thesis is the merging of personal family history with wider national and transnational histories. I show how individual personal stories are the framework of historiography. Through my family history in Northern Rhodesia and our experiences of Colouredness, I demonstrate that individual lives and historical events are woven together with a variety of colourful threads so that they resemble a vibrant jacquard brocade. The final theme I explore in the thesis is autoethnography. In this study, through my family history in Northern Rhodesia and Zambia’s national history, I use autoethnography to demonstrate the double-sidedness of the collective and individual historical experience as well as the doubling-up of public and private memory by writing the ethnographic history of my family, my community and my own experience of being classified and categorised as ‘Coloured’ in colonial and postcolonial Zambia.