Methodological Perspectives on British Commercial Telegraphy and the Colonial Struggle over Democratic Connections in Gibraltar, 1914–1941

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Methodological Perspectives on British Commercial Telegraphy and the Colonial Struggle over Democratic Connections in Gibraltar, 1914–1941


  • Bryce Peake Media and Communication Studies Department, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA


Abstract  This article examines the privatization of telegraphy in the British Empire from the perspective of Gibraltar, an overseas territory in the Mediterranean. While the history of international telegraphy is typically written from a world-systems perspective, this article presents a key methodological critique of the use of collections spread across many institutions and colonies: archival satellites are not simply reducible to parts of a scattered whole, as archival collections are themselves curations of socially-positioned understandings of Empire. This is especially true of the “girdle round the world” that was British telegraphy. At a meta-historical level, individual archival collections of the global British telegraphy system can be read as histories of colonial administrators’ geographically- and socially- situated perspectives on Empire—namely through what archives have, and have not, preserved. I demonstrate how the documents about telegraphy collected and maintained in the Gibraltar National Archives reflect pre- and post-World War I English, anti-Liberal colonial administrators’ and military officials’ fear that privatization was an opening salvo against the democratic web that held the last vestiges of Empire together.


Keywords  British Empire; colonial management; historical methodology; media archives; media history; telegraphy


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Publication Date   9 February 2018


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v6i1.1197


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