By C. Hagerman
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Additional resources for Britain's Imperial Muse: The Classics, Imperialism, and the Indian Empire, 1784-1914
112 If anything the classics played an even more significant part in undergraduate culture at Oxford. Bristed’s near contemporary William Tuckwell provides an account of a mock-Homeric epic poem – the Uniomachia – occasioned by a brief split in the Oxford Union between Whigs and Tories in the 1830s. The Greek original, which was later translated into English, came complete with notes and commentaries, and much of the fun for readers (and presumably authors) was in the simultaneous parodies of classmates and the well-known features of classical epic.
151 Admittedly much of the evidence presented in the preceding survey can be countered with evidence of classical education’s undoubted shortcomings. However I think it makes it difficult to sustain simple and sweeping assessments of classical education as nothing more than an ineffectual grammar-grind, which completely neglected ancient history and culture. On the contrary, it seems that classical education provided students a real opportunity to acquire some knowledge of ancient history and civilization throughout the period, especially if they attended university.
At a minimum, his classical education gave him his first insight into the significance of the British Empire in India, and as he made clear later in the speech, inspired his sense of imperial duty. This is a powerful type of influence, not to be discounted. My point is that throughout the long 19th century, classical education, as flawed and uneven as it was, succeeded in making the classics part of the mental furniture of a significant portion of Britain’s educated elites, the very people who shaped the discourse of empire in Britain and ruled the empire in India.
Britain's Imperial Muse: The Classics, Imperialism, and the Indian Empire, 1784-1914 by C. Hagerman