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Global Britishness was encoded in complex categories citizenship and subjecthood, that had traditionally been counched in remarkably elastic terms so as to uphold the myth of imperial belonging. Into the post-war years, this global remit became encoded in the 1948 British Nationality Act, at a time when other Commonwealth countries were moving toward separate citizenship status. These tension underlined the contradictions of British subjecthood at a time of renewed global mobility. In particular, West Indian sojourners in London were reminded on a daily basis that the mutual recognition of British subjecthood could in no sense be taken for granted, their mere presence in a metropolitan setting sparking debate about the universal properties of Greater Britain
The newest addition to the pantheon of Crimean worthies is the Caribbean healer and hotelier Mary Seacole, who ministered to the troops at the war front. In 1857, Seacole released her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. The book was an effort to safeguard her livelihood and secure her place in Crimean history. The latter goal was realized with the rediscovery of the autobiography in the later twentieth century. Black British activists and health care providers found an inspiration in Seacole’s story, sharing it in their communities and building on its legacy. By the millennium, their labors had transformed Seacole into a national icon, with a place in the National Curriculum and the National Gallery. A magisterial statue of Seacole now stands on the South Bank of the Thames, where Florence Nightingale spearheaded efforts in nursing education. Touted in the past as the “Black Nightingale,” Seacole was another unconventional woman with a long legacy. Yet, she is a Crimean protagonist in her own right, known for warmth, humor, and ingenuity. An embodiment of distinctive virtues, Seacole has become a Crimean role model for the twenty-first century.
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