Detail from “The Agents of the Modern African Slave Trade. The ‘Force Publique’ of the Congo State.” In Edmund Morel, King Leopold’s Rule in Africa (London: Heinemann, 1904), opposite 304. Public domain. Image copyright Adrian S. Wisnicki. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (

Fieldwork of Empire

Adrian S. Wisnicki

Fieldwork of Empire, 1840–1900: Intercultural Dynamics in the Production of British Expeditionary Literature. Routledge, forthcoming: Hardback & Digital (2019) | Paperback (2021). Order: Amazon (US); Waterstones (UK). Email the Author.

Fieldwork of Empire examines the impact of non-western cultural, political, and social forces and agencies on the production of British expeditionary literature. The book argues that such non-western impact was considerable, that it shaped the discursive and material dimensions of expeditionary literature, and that the impact extends to diverse materials from the expeditionary archive at a scale and depth that critics have previously not acknowledged.

The focus of the study falls on Victorian expeditionary literature related to Africa, a continent of accelerating British imperial interest in the nineteenth century, but the study’s findings have the potential to inform scholarship on European expeditionary, imperial, and colonial literature from a wide variety of periods and locations.

The book’s analysis is illustrative, not comprehensive. Each chapter targets intercultural encounters and expeditionary literature associated with a specific time period and African region or location. The book suggests that future scholarship – especially in areas such as expeditionary history, geography, cartography, travel writing studies, and book history – needs to adopt much more of a localized, non-western focus if it is to offer a full account of the production of expeditionary discourse and literature.

Adrian S. Wisnicki is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Faculty Fellow of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He directs Livingstone Online, a major peer-reviewed digital humanities project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Print publications include Conspiracy, Revolution, and Terrorism from Victorian Fiction to the Modern Novel (Routledge, 2008), and articles in Victorian Studies, Studies in Travel Writing, History in Africa, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, and elsewhere.