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The British Empire

Edited by Jane Samson

Publication Date - August 2001

ISBN: 9780192892935

344 pages

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $89.99

Global comparative history showing the full extent of British expansion, enabling the study of regional empire to be seen in its wider context


The phenomenon of imperialism has never been under such intense scrutiny, by such a wide range of academic disciplines, as it is today. From cultural studies to the history of science, academics are engaged in a series of debates about empire which move far beyond traditional preoccupations with metropolitan strategy, economics, and rivalry. Using primary and secondary documentary sources, this reader negotiates the many trends and concerns in recent debates to provide a broad-based, comparative history of the British Empire. Selected readings are presented within a chronological framework, from the origins of empire to decolonization and beyond. Samson adopts a theme of identity to explore different perspectives through the sources, including metropolitan, colonial, and indigenous responses. General and section introductions explore such issues as the role of economics and religion in imperial expansion and rule; how indigenous and Creole populations constructed and expressed their own identities; and what changes were wrought by the process of decolonization. Bringing together a wide range of documentary evidence, this volume allows the varied and vital debates on aspects of imperialism and identity to be seen in the context of the broad history of the British Empire.


  • Global comparative history showing the full extent of British expansion, enabling the study of regional empire to be seen in its wider context
  • Unique collection of primary and secondary sources, with unparalleled breadth of geographical and chronological coverage
  • Organized in four chronological parts, from the origins of empire to decolonization and beyond
  • Historical issues are revealed through the combination of extracts on the theory of empire with other documentary sources
  • Editorial introductions and commentary put the selections in context and highlight areas for debate
  • Maps, chronology, and select bibliography provide useful reference material for the student reader

About the Author(s)

Jane Samson is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. She is editor, with Alan Frost, of 'Pacific Empires: Essays in Honour of Glyndwr Williams' (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press; Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999) and author of 'Imperial Benevolence: Making British Authority in the Pacific Islands' (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press and London: Curzon Press, 1998).

Table of Contents

    General Introduction
    The Early Empire
    An empire of the sea
    Colonial identities
    The Eighteenth Century
    New horizons
    The American Revolution
    Conquest and identity
    The problem of India
    The Nineteenth Century
    Trade and empire
    Reform and empire
    The British diaspora
    Empire contested
    The 'new imperialism'
    The Twentieth Century
    The end of empire
    The empire at war
    The pioneers: India/Pakistan and Ghana
    Settler minorities: Kenya and Zimbabwe
    Peoples and borders: Palestine and Malaysia
    Select bibliography

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