Philip Lawson died in October 1995 at the comparatively young age of 46. Most of the contents of this volume, which he helped prepare for publication before his death, have been published elsewhere as periodical articles, and a good number will be well known to eighteenth-century scholars.
This book is committed to two main propositions, one general and one more particular.
Niall Ferguson is a glutton for exposure. From January to mid-February 2003 six one-hour television programmes, four lectures to substantial audiences in the University of London’s Senate House, and a large glossy book have been devoted to his theme of ‘empire’ or, as he also puts it, ‘how Britain made the modern world’.
Cultures of Empire is an ideal volume for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students, along with other scholars seeking to reflect on developments in an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that has rapidly evolved in little more than a decade.
The relationship between slavery, colonialism, capital accumulation and economic development has long been an issue that has exercised political economists and economic historians, though it is perhaps fair to say that it tends to be neglected in standard university courses for undergraduates.
The first question which may spring to the mind of any reader of this collection is: is it necessary or useful? Given the appearance in the not too distant past of the Oxford History of the British Empire, together with its themed volumes, can another edited collection on the empire contribute anything new or revealing?
As the title of the book suggests, Geographies of Empire covers the period roughly from the beginning of the ‘scramble for Africa’ – following the British invasion of Egypt in 1882 – to the year by which many of the territories formerly acquired by European colonial powers had been lost or given up.
Among the challenges that define teaching the history of Britain to undergraduates, those presented by national context are perhaps the most complex.
Breakfasting in bed, Maynard Keynes recalled the immense scope of the laissez-faire world of the Pax Britannica at its zenith in the summer of 1914. ‘The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his tea … the various products of the whole earth, in such quantities as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery at his doorstep; he could ...
Those disinclined to judge their book by its cover will be pleased to discover that the image adorning the latest volume in the Oxford History of the British Empire (OHBE) series bears little relation to its contents. Showing the famous long bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, it presents the imperial British in exemplary (if not stereotypical) terms.