Writing the Empire: The McIlwraiths, 1853–1948

 University of Toronto Press


Writing the Empire is a collective biography of the McIlwraiths, a family of politicians, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, scientists, and scholars. Known for their contributions to literature, politics, and anthropology, the McIlwraiths originated in Ayrshire, Scotland and spread across the British Empire, specifically North America and Australia, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.

Focusing on imperial networking, Writing the Empire reflects on the McIlwraiths’ life-writing through three generations, contained in correspondence, diaries, memoirs, and estate papers, along with published works by members of the family. By moving from generation to generation, but also from one stage of a person’s life to the next, the author investigates some of the ways in which various McIlwraiths, both men and women, articulated their identity as subjects of the British Empire over time. Kröller identifies parallel and competing forms of communication that involved major public figures beyond the family’s immediate circle, and explores the challenges issued by Indigenous people to imperial ideologies. Drawing from private papers and public archives, Writing the Empire is an illuminating biography that will appeal to readers interested in the links between life-writing and imperial history.

Purchase this Book

About the Author

Eva-Marie Kroller

Eva-Marie Kröller specializes in literary history, travel writing, life-writing, and cultural semiotics. She has been visiting professor at U of Bonn and Free U of Berlin and held an Alexander-von Humboldt Fellowship at the University of Bonn. Honours and fellowships include a Killam Research Prize, a Killam Teaching Prize, a Killam Faculty Research Fellowship, and election to the Royal Society of Canada. She has chaired UBC’s Programme in Comparative Literature and she has been editor of Canadian Literature, winning the Distinguished Editor Prize of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals and the Dean of Arts Award for her work at the journal.

Learn more about the author »