The Shadows of Empire: How Imperial History Shapes Our World

The Shadows of Empire: How Imperial History Shapes Our World

by Samir Puri

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A masterful, thought-provoking, and wide-ranging study of how the vestiges of the imperial era shape society today.

In this groundbreaking narrative, The Shadows of Empire explains (in the vein of The Silk Roads and Prisoners of Geography) how the world’s imperial legacies still shape our lives—as well as the thorniest issues we face today.

For the first time in millennia we live without formal empires. But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel their presence rumbling through history. From Russia’s incursions in the Ukraine to Brexit; from Trump’s America-First policy to China’s forays into Africa; from Modi’s India to the hotbed of the Middle East, Samir Puri provides a bold new framework for understanding the world’s complex rivalries and politics.

Organized by region, and covering vital topics such as security, foreign policy, national politics and commerce, The Shadows of Empire combines gripping history and astute analysis to explain why the history of empire affects us all in profound ways; it is also a plea for greater awareness, both as individuals and as nations, of how our varied imperial pasts have contributed to why we see the world in such different ways.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Puri, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, debuts with a well-informed yet disjointed account of how the legacy of imperialism influences modern-day global affairs. He sketches America’s ambiguous relationship with imperialism from the founders’ anticolonialist principles to the country’s emergence as a global policeman in the second half of the 20th century, and details how Britain benefits financially and culturally from its legacy of empire, yet exists in a post-empire malaise that overshadows many of its recent accomplishments. Turning to the reemergence of Russia’s imperial ambitions, Puri documents Vladimir Putin’s efforts to reassert the country’s geographic and cultural dominance through incursions into Ukraine and other former Soviet territories. Unfortunately, Puri’s lucid insights into the roots of modern-day Hindu nationalism in India, for instance, are somewhat obscured by his tendency to meander through the history and contemporary politics of each country he surveys, and the book’s central argument often falls out of focus. Though Puri’s knowledge of world affairs impresses, readers looking for an actionable guide to overcoming the long shadow of imperialism will be disappointed. (Feb.)

Robert D. Kaplan

An excellent read. Samir Puri has written a calm, distilled and bracing book.

Sam Willis

A timely and important re-thinking of imperial dominion.

From the Publisher

Advance praise for The Shadows of Empire:

Paul Strathern

Masterly. I found new insights on almost every page. It achieves the remarkable feat of deepening our self-knowledge while at the same time broadening our understanding of the world around us.

James Daybell

“This is a masterly, engaging, thought-provoking and wide-ranging study of how the vestiges of past empires shape the ways in which the world works today.

Kirkus Reviews

How the empires of yore continue to influence events long after their fall.

Puri, a former British Foreign Service officer whose “roots are in Britain’s former East African and Indian colonies,” writes that British mores concerning foreigners have “progressed substantially in the intervening decades since my family arrived after decolonization.” The mere fact that ex-imperial subjects are flooding the island is a product of a British Empire that once encircled the world but that began to splinter as World War II ended. Being English, notes the author, is now something available to ex-colonials generally, despite Brexit—itself a repudiation of a polity that closely overlies the Roman and Holy Roman empires—so long as they respond properly to “the cultural cues.” Just so, he writes, Russia’s annexation of portions of Ukraine was an expression of a historical imperative to restore former czarist—and Soviet—boundaries and a form of resistance to “second-tier status” on the world stage, “despite its relative economic weakness.” Puri’s argument sometimes seems self-evident, but it has an appealing freshness, as when he observes that under Donald Trump, the U.S. withdrew from the empire-building of the previous century only to demand control of ground formerly occupied by Mexico in the form of ID checks, mass deportation, and wall-building. Interestingly, Puri notes, just as no American secondary school textbook would speak of our far-flung military presence as evidence of an American empire, almost nowhere except in a brief geography syllabus do British schoolchildren learn that their country once controlled nearly half of the globe, “perhaps because there is no consensus as to whether to present the facts in a positive or negative light.” We now live in a world without formal empires, Puri concludes, “and this is a historical novelty.” This comes, of course, as China, Turkey, and other nations attempt to build new empires of their own, so that novelty may be short-lived.

A provocative work that will appeal to students of world history and geopolitics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643136691
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 02/02/2021
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,133,674
File size: 7 MB

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