Timeline Entry Assignment

Using Tiki-Toki, we will make a timeline exhibition titled “Making Imperial Science, 1750-present.” The timeline focuses on three subthemes:

  1. Gender Politics
  2. Making Bodies
  3. Technologies of Power

Each student will write 5 timeline entries, with at least one entry in each subtheme.  You will need to get your entries approved by the professor before you start researching them.  Students will draft their timeline entries individually, and their writing will be graded as such.

Each timeline entry will need to be 750-1000 words (not including bibliographies) and cite at least four relevant and contemporary academic articles or books as well as at least two primary documents.  Each timeline entry should include at least one image, which is both properly cited and for which you have the rights.

Timeline entries will introduce the person, concept, event, etc. under analysis, summarizing its history, context, and significance.  All timeline entries should include a thesis and provide some analysis of at least two primary documents.  Each timeline entry should include a short bibliography of relevant books and articles in the field.

An example entry is below (note that this is not on the history of science).


Sample Entry

[NOTE: If I were grading the sample entry, I would give it an “B+.”  There is still room for improvement.  See if you can figure some revisions that would make the entry better.]

£1 Siege Note. March 1900, Mafeking (Mafikeng), South Africa

Robert Baden-Powell. £1 Siege Note. March 1900, Mafeking (Mafikeng), South Africa. 133 mm X 100 mm. Inscription: This note is good for One Pound during the siege and will be exchanged for coin at the Standard Bank Mafeking on the resumption of Civil Law. Chartered Institute of Bankers Collection, CM CIB 15327, British Museum, Department of Coins and Medals (study collection).

Lit: A. Pick, N. Shafer and C.K. Bruce (eds.), Standard catalog of world paper money (Iola, Wisconsin, annual publication); J. Cribb, Money: from cowrie shells to credit cards (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)

This £1 note was issued by Colonel Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941, later 1st Baron Baden-Powell), who commanded the defense of Mafeking during the Boer siege from October 12, 1899 to May 17, 1900.  It was one of a series issued by Baden-Powell when the attack on Mafeking severed regular contact with the British South African forces.  This £1 note, the highest denomination issued during the Mafeking siege, promised the holder an issuance in coinage from the Mafeking Standard bank at the end of hostilities.  In fact, these notes were never exchanged for government-issued money.  According to Baden-Powell, “people kept them or sold them as interesting mementos.”[1]  The image depicted on the paper shows Baden-Powell and his troops protecting a woman.  Powell mans one of the several improvised weapons used by the British forces at Mafeking.  Inscribed on the canon is Powell’s nickname, the “Wolf.”

The British interest in Mafeking was part of an overarching interest in southern Africa after 1806 that was driven by economic and strategic concerns, especially: 1) the protection of trade routes to India 2) the mining of newly-discovered diamond and gold deposits after 1867 and 1886 respectively 3) and the competition to seize African lands (i.e. the “Scramble for Africa”), formalized at the Berlin Conference in 1884-5.[2]  Defeating the Bantu-speaking Tswana, the British established Mafeking as an outpost in 1885.  Located within miles of the Boer Transvaal state, Mafeking became an increasingly strategic location in the tense years following the Jameson Raid in December 1895.  With hostilities inevitable in 1899, Colonel Baden-Powell prepared for the siege of Mafeking with a small garrison of 1000, including a corps of young volunteer boys.  Surprisingly, Baden-Powell’s troops were able to repel the seven month siege, causing much “mafficking” in Britain and propelling Baden-Powell into the social limelight in Britain.[3]  Mafeking was celebrated in the British popular press and quickly became the representative event of the Boer War.[4]   Even the poetically-challenged William McGonagall celebrated the victory at Mafeking:

SUCCESS to Colonel Baden-Powell and his praises loudly sing,
For being so brave in relieving Mafeking,
With his gallant little band of eight hundred men,
They made the Boers fly from Mafeking like sheep escaping from a pen.

(“The Relief of Mafeking,” 1900)

Mafeking and Baden-Powell became complex cultural symbols of the British empire.  Baden-Powell’s “£1 Siege Note” reveals some of this complexity.  The illustration on the currency reflects the symbolic reproduction of imperial themes in Boer War paraphernalia. [5]  While the undaunted Baden-Powell surveys the scene of battle, the improvised canon represents the unbridled ingenuity of the British.  The reason for the war is the protection of the empire, embodied in the Union Jack unfurled above the heads of the soldiers.  While the resolute men boldly face the Boers, a woman in the image reminds the holder of the note that the women of the empire cannot protect themselves.  As masculine prototypes, it is the soldier’s duty to be militaristic and brave, protecting both their nation and their virtuous female population.  Yet, even as the British forces in Mafeking rallied support for the war in the metropole, Britons grew anxious about the stability of their empire.  Images of tall, healthy British soldiers in images like that of Mafeking contrasted the evidence.  During the Boer war, the British army turned away most recruits because of physical problems, and by 1904, parliament began an inquiry into the causes of a perceived physical degeneration of the British race.  In effect, the British government faced a cultural “crisis of masculinity” – a pronounced public concern of over the physical, moral, and military deterioration of the British male.[6]  In response, Baden-Powell, inspired by the organization of the youth volunteers in the Boer War, founded the Boy Scouts in 1908 as a response to this “crisis of masculinity.”[7]


[1] Robert Baden-Powell, Lessons from the Varsity of Life (London: C. Arthur Pearson, 1933), chapter 7.

[2] P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, British Imperialism, 1688-2000, 2nd Ed. (London: Longman, 2002), 318-327.

[3] The electronic OED cites the Pall Mall Gazette, May 21, 1900, 2:2 <http://www.oed.com&gt; as the originator of the verb “to maffick”: We trust Cape Town will ‘maffick’ to-day, if we may coin a word, as we at home did on Friday and Saturday.”

[4] See, for example, Arthur Conan Doyle’s account of Mafeking in chapter 24 of The Great Boer War: A Two-Years’ Record, 1899-1901(London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1901).

[5] On the symbolic reproduction of empire, see Timothy Burke, Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption, and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996) and Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 1995).

[6] Ana Davin, “Imperialism and Motherhood” in Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, Ed. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997), 93-97.

[7] Michael Rosenthal, The Character Factor: Baden-Powell’s Boy Scouts and the Imperatives of Empire (New York: Pantheon, 1986), 3.

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