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‘The eyes of an empire’: the Legion of Frontiersmen, 1904–14


  • The author would like to thank Dr. Paul Readman for reading and commenting upon numerous drafts at various stages, as well as for his assistance with the process of transferring his M.A. thesis into this article. He also would like to express his appreciation to the independent referees for their valuable suggestions. Finally, he is grateful to the master and members of the Worshipful Company of Bowyers for their support in awarding the original thesis the Bowyers' Graduate Academic Prize for History in 2009.


The Legion of Frontiersmen, founded in 1904 by a quixotic writer and adventurer, Roger Pocock, attempted to create a paramilitary force that would serve the empire both as an irregular scouting force in time of war and as an intelligence network through its ‘frontier’ connections. Although the organization's global membership reached 10,000 by the beginning of the First World War the legion's requests for official recognition were consistently rebuffed and the picturesque nature of its uniforms often caused public mockery. Nevertheless, a study of these ‘super patriots’ provides new perspectives on several important cultural and political themes in Britain and the empire in the early twentieth century, including the significance of the ‘frontier’ in imperial discourse. It also questions several assumptions about the supposed ‘militarization’ of Edwardian society.