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In this incisive new work, already being hailed as a landmark, David Cannadine looks at the British Empire from a new perspective—through the eyes of those who created and ruled it—and offers fresh insight into the driving forces behind the Empire. Arguing against the views of Edward Said and others, Cannadine suggests that the British were motivated not by race but by class. The British wanted to domesticate the exotic world of their colonies and to reorder the societies they ruled according to an idealized image of their own class hierarchies. In reestablishing the connections between British society and colonial society, Cannadine shows that Imperialists loathed Indians and Africans no more nor less than they loathed the great majority of Englishmen and were far more willing to work with maharajahs, kings, and chiefs of whatever race than with "sordid" white settlers. Revolted by the triumph of democracy in Britain itself, the Empire's rulers embraced a feudal vision of the colonies which successfully endured until the 1950s.
About the Author:
David Cannadine is Professor of History and Director of the Institute of Historical Research at London University. He is the author of many acclaimed books including The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, Class in Britain, and History in Our Time. He lives in London.
"A thoughtful and spirited book.... In the privacy of their small worlds, away from the postmodernists and the radical historians writing 'peripheral' history, there can be heard fond retrospects of the empire and its pageantry by ordinary, unfashionable men and women. Were these people to tell us what they recall of the empire's doings, I suspect that they would echo some of the truths of Cannadine's subtle and learned retrieval of that imperial history."--Fouad Ajami, The New York Times Book Review
"Like everything that Cannadine writes...Ornamentalism is vigorous, stimulating, and bursting with ideas.... It should be read by anyone who is interested in politics and society in the British Empire."--Philip Ziegler, The Spectator
"Cannadine is excellent on the uses of pageantry and on the kitschy extremes it had reached by the nineteen-twenties."--New Yorker
"David Cannadine's Ornamentalism is so stimulating and original that it will now and forever after be read hand in hand with Edward Said's Orientalism. Cannadine's vision is quite different. He brilliantly recovers the world-view and social presuppositions of those who dominated and ruled the Empire, and thus restores the Empire to British social history. No other work succeeds as well in putting the history of Britain back into the history of the empire, and the history of the empire back into the history of Britain."--Wm. Roger Louis, Editor-in-Chief, The Oxford History of the British Empire
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Posted March 17, 2004
Despite having a world wide reputation, David Cannadine sorely disappoints with this mishmash of late imperial nostalgia and selective reading of the past. It was as if he came up with the catchy title and decided he should say something controversial, evidence be damned. In the process, he ignores 20 years of careful scholarship on the empire. This is the worst sort of imperial apologia.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.