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Patronage and Politics in the Victorian Empire: The Personal Governance of Sir Arthur ...

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Patronage and Politics in the Victorian Empire:


A Product of Patronage

Before Sir Arthur Gordon's career in colonial government can be evaluated, the evolution and heterogeneity of that imperial world of the mid-nineteenth century has to be understood. Staffing posts across a collection of politically contentious settlements, slave colonies undergoing emancipation, and strategic and commercial outposts ranging from mere islands to the sub-continent of India, at the end of the long wars with France, defied simple bureaucratic solutions. Indeed, with India separately managed by company and crown and the colonial office united with the war office until 1854, it was hard enough for a single metropolitan ministry to define its own functions and responsibilities within a global empire. 1 The principal imperial agents—proconsuls, governors, viceroys—were key intermediaries, sometimes wayward and hard to control, occasionally indolent, but always the interpreters of local politics, mediators with local factions, and tactful or blunt instruments of imperial intentions. In short, they were brokers between a British system of constitutional government and local hierarchies in British North America and the Australian colonies edging towards responsible government, and unenfranchised