The central thesis of T. G. Otte's meticulously researched new study of British foreign policy is that the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5 produced the 'China Question' and with it, the problem of Great Britain's 'international isolation'.
Despite the flurry of works over the past 20 years or so which have explored the course and consequences of colonial rule in India, and increasingly the impact that such rule had upon British society, the period before the Battle of Plassey has remained for the most part insulated from questions about the ideologies and operations of territorial governance.
The historical literature on Afghanistan and the various armed conflicts fought on its soil has greatly increased in recent years, due to the tragic events following the American-led invasion of the country in October 2001.
Today, a half-century after his death, Winston Churchill stands like a colossus over the political, diplomatic and military history of the 20th century, and of its most terrible armed conflict, the Second World War. The already voluminous number of historical studies devoted to him and his career continues to grow, and amounts to a full-blown industry – never mind the ‘cottage’ part.
Next year will mark the centenary of one of the most extreme and brutal displays of colonial power and violence, the so called Amritsar Massacre of 1919. The massacre took place in a public park called Jallianwala Bagh in the city of Amritsar where British Indian army’s Colonel Reginald Dyer on 13 April 1919 ordered his troops to fire on unarmed protestors gathered there.
The fate of prisoners of war (POWs) is now established within the mainstream of historical enquiry. As well as a growing literature on the subject, modules dedicated to studying the history of POWs are now a common feature on university history courses. The two books under review focus on British servicemen captured during the Second World War.