Science, Commerce, and Imperial Expansion in British Travel Literature: Hugh Clifford’s and Joseph Conrad’s Malay Fiction

Science, Commerce, and Imperial Expansion in British Travel Literature: Hugh Clifford’s and Joseph Conrad’s Malay Fiction
anthropology; cannibals; civilizing mission; commerce; gentleman; Hugh Clifford; imperial expansion; Joseph Conrad; Malay Archipelago; pirates; travel literature
Issue Date
영어영문학, v.57, no.6, pp.1151 - 1171
Conrad’s novels, specifically the Lingard Trilogy— Almayer’s Folly,An Outcast of the Islands, and The Rescue— and Lord Jim, set in the Southeast Asian or Malay Archipelago can be considered travel literature that played a significant role in British imperial expansion. Conrad’s Malay novels were based not only on his experience in the region during his commercial journey but also on information from earlier travel writings about the Malays and their customs, including James Brooke’s journals. The English traders in Conrad’s novels, namely Lingard and Jim,were partly modeled on Brooke, the White Rajah, who founded and ruled the English colony on the northwest of Borneo in the 1840s. The white traders in Conrad’s novels, who act as enlightened rulers, represent the British commercial expansionism, which was obscured by the phenomenon of the civilizing mission in the late nineteenth century. On the other hand, the colonial official Clifford’s tales and novels about British Malaya demonstrate the typical travel accounts of the late nineteenth century that stress the civilizing mission over commercial exploitation. The concept of the enlightening mission was rooted in evolutionary anthropological thinking, which developed as part of the natural history in the early nineteenth century. In fact, the development of natural history,stimulating British expansion in search of commercially exploitable resources and lands, enabled travel writing as the collection of natural knowledge to become a profitable business. In Conrad, the white characters are mainly traders acting as colonial rulers, while in Clifford, they are scientific rulers with their commercial interests rarely apparent. In sum, Conrad’s novels reveal that the new imperialism of the civilizing mission is still a commercial one, which disturbs rather than contributes to the imperial expansion—in contrast to other travel literature such as Clifford’s.
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