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Visualizing the imperial mission of the Salvation Army : the frontispiece of 'In darkest England and the way out'

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Title: Visualizing the imperial mission of the Salvation Army : the frontispiece of 'In darkest England and the way out'
Author: Wilson, Kelsey
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Art History
Copyright Date: 2011
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2011-10-24
Abstract: In 1890 William Booth, the founder and “General” of the Salvation Army, a working class evangelical missionary organization, published In Darkest England and the Way Out. Booth’s book proposed an elaborate tripartite scheme to address the desperate situation of unemployment and poverty in East London and other urban centres in Britain in the late nineteenth-century. The publication outlined three successive stages in this project for social reform. A “City Colony” and a “Farm Colony” would provide food, shelter, training and work for the destitute and unemployed. Ultimately emigration to a “Colony Across the Sea” would offer new futures and new lives for those rehabilitated by the Salvation Army scheme. Two components of the book played key roles in the marketing of this project. One was a fold-out colour lithograph that featured a compelling image of the book’s reformative scheme and its slogan of ‘Work for All.’ The second was the book’s opening chapter that constructed an extended analogy between England’s urban centres and the recently published best-seller, Henry Morton Stanley’s In Darkest Africa (1890). Both this chapter and the book’s fold-out chromolithograph frontispiece drew on imperial and Christian tropes to attract the reader and to sell the Salvation Army’s project of social rehabilitation and colonial settlement. This thesis examines the imperial and Christian rhetoric at work in Darkest England, and in particular explores the persuasive role of the visual in the book’s frontispiece in articulating Booth’s complex and problematic scheme. To this end I explore the tensions inherent in Booth’s proposal in light of other philanthropic and social reform projects in late nineteenth-century Britain that targeted urban poverty, unemployment and emigration to the colonies. Set within this context, I argue that the representational strategies at work in the frontispiece image encouraged a powerful and performative enactment of the spiritual and social salvation that was a central goal of In Darkest England and the Way Out. I also argue that the visual modes employed in the colour illustration work to both mediate and contain the contradictory agendas that are revealed in Booth’s text.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/38194
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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