How is imperialism depicted in Cranford and in which chapters?

The British Empire was so big that it was impossible to control every aspect of it at once. The empire had many parts, such as India and Australia, that were so far away from Britain that the government could not completely control them. There were also parts of the empire that were not controlled by Britain but instead by other European countries, such as Canada and South Africa. These areas of the empire would have had their own laws, taxes and government; this is known as indirect rule. The British Empire meant a lot to the economy of Britain because each colony produced valuable resources for Britain. For example, India provided cotton for textiles. This meant a lot because textiles formed an important part of their economy.

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Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell, is set in an English village ostensibly far away from anywhere. It is especially interesting to note, then, that even in remote Cranford, the effects of the expanding British Empire can be seen, suggesting that its impact was far-reaching across the whole of Britain. At the beginning of the novel (Chapter 1) Gaskell jokes that the village is made up of "Amazons," with the absent men attached to their "regiments" or "ships." In the 1850s, these regiments would have been stationed in far-off corners of the Empire, and the ships heading East. Already the landscape of the village has been affected by the existence of Empire.

Elsewhere in the novel, small elements of the remote East become objects of fashion, as the women debate whether turbans are in fashion (Chapter 9) and delight in the entertainments of Signor Brunoni, a magician who claims to have performed for the King of Delhi and the Raja of Oude. Meanwhile, Mr Peter, who has traveled widely in India, relates tales of his time there for the ladies' entertainment: "He was telling her of his travels in India, and describing the wonderful height of the Himalaya mountains: one touch after another added to their size, and each exceeded the former in absurdity; but Mrs Jamieson really enjoyed all in perfect good faith."

In Cranford, then, we see Empire pervading even the most remote parts of English society, even if there is a lack of understanding of the cultures being appropriated and the people in the colonies. The Empire is seemingly out of reach of the ladies of Cranford, but as an English village, it is still distinctly part of the imperialist culture of Britain, which is altering the composition, fashions and behavior of the whole country.

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