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Literary Criticism Canadian

Writing the Empire

The McIlwraiths, 1853-1948

by (author) Eva-Marie Kröller

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Canadian, Historical, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
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Writing the Empire is a collective biography of the McIlwraiths, a family of politicians, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, scientists, and scholars. Known for their contributions to literature, politics, and anthropology, the McIlwraiths originated in Ayrshire, Scotland, and spread across the British Empire, specifically North America and Australia, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.


Focusing on imperial networking, Writing the Empire reflects on three generations of the McIlwraiths’ life writing, including correspondence, diaries, memoirs, and estate papers, along with published works by members of the family. By moving from generation to generation, but also from one stage of a person’s life to the next, the author investigates how various McIlwraiths, both men and women, articulated their identity as subjects of the British Empire over time. Eva-Marie Kröller identifies parallel and competing forms of communication that involved major public figures beyond the family’s immediate circle, and explores the challenges issued by Indigenous people to imperial ideologies. Drawing from private papers and public archives, Writing the Empire is an illuminating biography that will appeal to readers interested in the links between life writing and imperial history.

About the author

George Bowering
George Bowering, Canada’s first Poet Laureate, was born in the Okanagan Valley.

After serving as an aerial photographer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Bowering earned a BA in English and an MA in History at the University of British Columbia, where he became one of the co-founders of the avant-garde poetry magazine TISH. He has taught literature at the University of Calgary, the University of Western Ontario and Simon Fraser University, and he continues to act as a Canadian literary ambassador at international conferences and readings.

A distinguished novelist, poet, editor, professor, historian and tireless supporter of fellow writers, Bowering has authored more than 80 books, including works of poetry, fiction, autobiography, biography and youth fiction. His writing has also been translated into French, spanish, Italian, German, Chinese and Romanian.

In 2002, Bowering was recognized by the Vancouver Sun as one of the most influential people in British Columbia.

Eva-Marie Kröller
Eva-Marie Kröller is currently the Chair of the Comperative Literature Program at the University of British Columbia. George Bowering: Bright Circles of Colour was published by Talonbooks in 1992. Recently, she has co-edited Cambridge History of Canadian Literature, published by Cambridge University Press.

Eva-Marie Kröller's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Writing the Empire is a masterpiece of archival research and reconstruction that illuminates and challenges broad-brush narratives of British imperial and colonial history and demonstrates how biography can, in fact, be more than minutiae without meaning."

<em>Journal of Australian Studies</em>

"A splendid accomplishment in literary analysis, family history, and the study of the anatomy of Empire."

<em>British Journal of Canadian Studies</em>

"Writing the Empire is a fascinating … history of a family that left its traces [in] Empire politics as well as the international academic and publishing worlds."

<em>Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen</em>

"Writing the Empire is a significant piece of scholarship and historians interested in empire and colonialism will benefit from engaging with it."

<em>The British Columbia Review</em>

"Kroller is to be commended for her exploration of the gendered relationships between family members and other intimate connections are well-explored in this book. She took on a monumental task to synthesize an enormous amount of material and pull out cohesive themes for each section, and yet she still managed to include an intersectional lens to her analysis."

<em>Ontario History</em>

"Eva-Marie Kroller has drawn upon recent scholarship of imperial connections and networking, as well as extensive archival work, to produce an idiosyncratic and highly original history of the extended McIlwraith family."

<em>Canadian Historical Review</em>

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