Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Overview

This volume comprehensively examines the ways metropolitan Britons spoke and wrote about the British Empire during the short eighteenth century, from about 1730 to 1790. The work argues that following several decades of largely uncritical celebration of the empire as a vibrant commercial entity that had made Britain prosperous and powerful, a growing familiarity with the character of overseas territories and their inhabitants during and after the Seven Years' War produced a substantial critique of empire. ...

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Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain

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Overview

This volume comprehensively examines the ways metropolitan Britons spoke and wrote about the British Empire during the short eighteenth century, from about 1730 to 1790. The work argues that following several decades of largely uncritical celebration of the empire as a vibrant commercial entity that had made Britain prosperous and powerful, a growing familiarity with the character of overseas territories and their inhabitants during and after the Seven Years' War produced a substantial critique of empire. Evolving out of a widespread revulsion against the behaviors exhibited by many groups of Britons overseas and building on a language of "otherness" that metropolitans had used since the beginning of overseas expansion to describe its participants, the societies, and polities that Britons abroad had constructed in their new habitats, this critique used the languages of humanity and justice as standards by which to evaluate and condemn the behaviors, in turn, of East India Company servants, American slaveholders, Atlantic slave traders, Irish pensioners, absentees, oppressors of Catholics, and British political and military leaders during the American War of Independence. Although this critique represented a massive contemporary condemnation of British colonialism and manifested an impulse among metropolitans to distance themselves from imperial excesses, the benefits of empire were far too substantial to permit any turning away from it, and the moment of sensibility waned.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jack Greene's Evaluating Empire is the best study of critiques of British colonization in North America, the West Indies, Ireland, and India. He shows that many Britons used Enlightenment values of justice, humanity, and liberty to confront their compatriots' triumphalism about commerce and power after the Seven Years' War." - John E. Crowley, Dalhousie University

"Jack P. Greene demonstrates magisterially how the current debate on whether the British Empire was a force for good or ill began in the eighteenth century. Citing a vast range of writings he analyzes their use of different 'languages' favorable or unfavorable to imperial projects in America, India, and Ireland. This novel approach convincingly establishes that colonialism was generally applauded until 1763 but thereafter was challenged by an increasing chorus of criticism." - William A. Speck, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Leeds

"Whether dissecting the language of imperial grandeur or pondering critiques of imperial excess, Jack Greene has provided us with a riveting new guide to Hanoverian thinking about empire. He establishes, richly and persuasively, that when mid-to-late eighteenth-century Britons looked overseas, west or east, they saw colonialism, with all its antinomies and cruelties, some hundred years before the word was even invented. Required reading for all scholars and students of early modern empires and their afterlives." - Kathleen Wilson, State University of New York, Stony Brook

"Highly recommended." -Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107682986
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,005,147
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack P. Greene is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in the Humanities in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University. Before retiring in 2005, he taught colonial British-American history for almost a half century at Michigan State University, Western Reserve University, the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University. Greene's publications are extensive, including eleven monographs, seven booklets, eight edited volumes, eight documentary editions, two anthologies, four encyclopedias and one bibliography. He has also published nearly one hundred chapters in books, more than one hundred journal articles and hundreds of book reviews. Additionally, he has supervised eighty-eight dissertations. Greene is a member of the American Historical Association, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Historical Society and the British Academy.

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Table of Contents

1. 'The principal cornucopia of Great Britain's wealth': the languages of commerce, liberty, security, and maritime supremacy and the celebration of empire; 2. Outposts of 'loose vagrant people': the language of alterity in the evaluation of empire; 3. 'A fabric at once the dread and wonder of the world': the languages of imperial grandeur, liberty, commerce, humanity, and justice and the American challenge to empire; 4. Arenas of 'Asiatic plunder': the languages of humanity and justice and the excesses of empire in India; 5. Sites of Creolean despotism: the languages of humanity and justice and the critique of colonial slavery and the African slave trade; 6. 'A fruitless, bloody, wasting war': the languages of imperial grandeur. Liberty, humanity, and commerce in the American conflict; 7. 'This voraginous gulph of Hibernian dependence': the languages of oppression, corruption, justice, liberty, and humanity and the identification of imperial excesses in Ireland; 8. A 'shadow of our former glory'?: The discussion of empire in the wake of American secession; 9. Epilogue: 'against every principle of justice, humanity, and whatever is allowed to be right among mankind': standards of humanity and the evaluation of empire.

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