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.