Masters and servants

Cultures of empire in the tropics

By Claire Lowrie

Masters and servants


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9793-9
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: May 2016
  • BIC Category: Australasia, HISTORY / Asia / China, HISTORY / Australia & New Zealand, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, European history, Colonialism & imperialism, Australasian & Pacific history
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


Masters and servants explores the politics of colonial mastery and domestic servitude in the neighbouring British colonies of Singapore and Darwin. Through an exploration of master-servant relationships within British, white Australian and Chinese homes, this book illustrates the centrality of the domestic realm to the colonial project. It is the first comparative history of domestic service and British colonialism in the tropics, and highlights the important role which 'houseboys' played in colonial households in the tropics and the common preference for Chinese 'houseboys' throughout Southeast Asia.

The book is meticulously researched, and draws from archives that have never been addressed in this way before. Its highly original and innovative approach, which combines comparative analysis with a focus on transcolonial connections, puts the book at the forefront of current postcolonial scholarship. The insights that Masters and servants provides into the domestic politics of colonial rule make this book essential reading for students and scholars of empire.


'Based on her PhD thesis, the author draws on a very wide array of sources to explore a subject seldom found in official documentation to paint a vivid picture of class, race and gender relations amongst both male and female masters and their domestic servants.'
Michael Quinlan, University of New South Wales

'Lowrie has brought to light a fascinating, hitherto neglected aspect of the 'cultures of empire in the tropics', as her subtitle puts it. Her study iscrisply written, carefully researched, and clearly argued.'
DaneKennedy, George Washington University, Australian Historical Studies, 48,2017

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