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Response to Review no. 989

I am most grateful to Barbara Bush for her very thoughtful and wide-ranging, as well as generous, review. I certainly find myself in broad agreement with most of her general comments on trends and debates in imperial and colonial studies. Insofar as she is critical of my Reader, it is in relation to the selection I made from among the truly vast range of potentially relevant work: and thus, naturally, to what is not included. I naturally hope that the selection made does not too blatantly ‘reflect Howe’s own interests’; whilst I suspect that neither Bush nor our readers will  be surprised to learn that almost all the specific materials and writers whose omission she laments had been on my ‘long shortlist’ and were ones I would very much have wished to include if given more space. It is almost as ‘unfair’ here to single out specific examples of these as it (unavoidably) was to make such exclusions in the first place: but among such omissions I especially regret not being able to include any of Catherine Hall’s important relevant work. Hard choices, and necessarily scanty representation for some major themes and debates, were made yet harder by my desire both to indicate the sheer breadth and variety of historical work pertinent to my theme, and to include some writings which were likely to be relatively unfamiliar to my readers, not previously anthologised, and indeed in one case (the article by E. S. Atieno Odhiambo) not previously published. I would like here to mention, and express my sorrow at, a fact which could not be noted in the book itself: Professor Odhiambo’s sadly early death before the Reader’s publication. 

Bush suggests, kindly, that my introduction to the volume ‘raises provocative questions that would have benefited from fuller discussion’. Naturally I concur with the implied criticism, but must again, alas, plead constraints of space. Some, at least, of those questions are more fully discussed by me in other places, and above all in my forthcoming book Intellectual Consequences of Decolonisation. I might also note (if I may be permitted such an ‘advertisement’) that Philip Murphy and I, as still-newish editors of the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, are eager in its pages to encourage exploration and debate on the many questions Bush raises, and to solicit potential contributions to the Journal which do so.