You think you've seen cultural imperialism? The Battery and the Boiler shows you what cultural imperialism looked like in 1880s England. I read this book because it's an adventure story about the laying of undersea telegraph cables. This stuff is pretty interesting. You might remember that I posted some material from H.D. Wilkinson's Submarine Cable Laying and Repairing about cable grappling hooks. Those folks did some interesting and impressive engineering.
But The Battery and the Boiler is an adventure story. And part of its appeal is that it instills values into its reader:
- Englishmen are brave
- Good people are happy to stay in their caste
- Non-Englishmen are not brave. E.g., Malaysians are either (a) cowardly pirates or (b) cowardly slaves of cowardly pirates.
- A chapter's worth of sermonizing builds strong character
I've read plenty of old books. I've encountered jingoistic racist nationalist twaddle before. Usually, I say "...but if you can get past that, there's this interesting bit..." But the only interesting bits in this book were the laying of undersea telegraph cable, and I've read better descriptions of that elsewhere.
The silver lining is that I bought this book when it was cheap (free?) for Kindle and it was a quick read.