This article applies the idea of pivoting to teaching British history and cultural studies, both by focusing on a pivotal year’s watershed events and by artfully telling a before-and-after story about a less noteworthy event. My teaching tool in this case was the year 1874, which was pivotal in the first sense of the word owing to Benjamin Disraeli’s defeat of William Gladstone and the subsequent decline of laissez-faire and rise of imperialism. I discuss how I use that event as a pivot by referring back to the culture of voluntarism that had promoted Gladstone’s popularity and to blind spots in Gladstonian liberalism that rendered him politically vulnerable in 1874. I then turn to my experience teaching a one-week unit on the British annexation of Fiji, which also occurred in 1874. In this unit I assigned some students to report on the career of the first governor of Fiji, Arthur Gordon, who governed five other British colonies before and after 1874, and I asked other students to present group reports on four different perspectives on Fiji that accompanied annexation, by a company promoter, a tourist, a missionary, and an adventure novelist.


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pp. 323-333
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