White women cut an ambivalent fi gure in the transnational history of the British Empire. They tend to be remembered as malicious harridans personifying the worst excesses of colonialism, as vacuous fusspots, whose lives were punctuated by a series of frivolous pastimes, or as casualties of patriarchy, constrained by male actions and gendered ideologies. 1 This book, which places itself amongst other “new imperial histories” that have proliferated since the turn of the twenty-fi rst century, argues that the reality of the situation is, of course, much more intricate and complex. 2 Focusing on postwar colonial Rhodesia, Gendering the Settler State provides a fi ne-grained analysis of the role(s) of white women in the colonial enterprise, arguing that they held ambiguous and inconsistent views on a variety of issues, including liberalism, gender, race and colonialism. Continuing on from Antoinette
Burton, it primarily focuses on domains and spaces beyond the domestic interior in which women were present. 3
As its point of departure, Gendering the Settler State addresses the problem of restoring the historical visibility of white Rhodesian women. Whilst primarily focusing on the experiences and representations of white women, it also addresses a smaller, but no less signifi cant, subset of interrelated problems regarding the role(s) of women in the history of the British Empire, the racialised politicisation of domesticity, the nature of multiracialism and liberalism in colonial Southern Africa and the complex and intertwined history of racial and gender roles in a colonial setting.