Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power

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A bestselling historian shows how the British Empire created the modern world, in a book lauded as "a rattling good tale" (Wall Street Journal) and "popular history at its best" (Washington Post)
The British Empire was the largest in all history: the nearest thing to global domination ever achieved. The world we know today is in large measure the product of Britain's Age of Empire. The global spread of capitalism, telecommunications, the English language, and institutions of representative government -- all these can be traced back to the extraordinary expansion of Britain's economy, population and culture from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth. On a vast and vividly colored canvas, Empire shows how the British Empire acted as midwife to modernity.
Displaying the originality and rigor that have made Niall Ferguson one of the world's foremost historians, Empire is a dazzling tour de force -- a remarkable reappraisal of the prizes and pitfalls of global empire.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Basic Books
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Published on
Mar 17, 2008
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780465013104
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Great Britain / General
History / United States / 21st Century
History / World
Political Science / Imperialism
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Protectorate's foreign relations are among the most misunderstood aspects of a little-known period of British history, usually seen as an interlude between regicide and Restoration. Yet Cromwell's unique political and military position and current European conflicts enabled him to play a crucial role in international affairs, playing off France against Spain and arousing Catholic fears. Financial and security problems determined the nature of Cromwell's policies, but he achieved great influence among his neighbours in five turbulent years Until recent studies the Protectorate has been regarded as a political cul-de-sac lying uncomfortably between regicide and Restoration. Its foreign relations presented outdated 'Elizabethan' hatred of declining Spain, neglect of rising French and Dutch power, and excessive admiration of Protestant Sweden. A close study of Cromwell's domestic and international position in 1653 casts new light on his problems and successes, restoring pragmatism above religious idealism as the determining factor despite Cromwell's undoubted miscalculations. It is to his credit that England's international prestige stood at its highest during the century in 1658, helped by his unprecedently powerful (though expensive) armed forces. Despite unpopularity and subversion at home, and a narrow base of support, Cromwell utilised the Franco-Spanish war to auction his services between them, obtained England's only Continental foothold after 1558, and pressed his claim as leader of European Protestantism at a time of renewed religious tension.
The Oxford History of the British Empire is a major new assessment of the Empire in the light of recent scholarship and the progressive opening of historical records. From the founding of colonies in North America and the West Indies in the seventeenth century to the reversion of Hong Kong to China at the end of the twentieth, British imperialism was a catalyst for far-reaching change. The Oxford History of the British Empire as a comprehensive study helps us to understand the end of Empire in relation to its beginning, the meaning of British imperialism for the ruled as well as for the rulers, and the significance of the British Empire as a theme in world history. Volume III of The Oxford History of the British Empire covers the long nineteenth century, from the achievement of American independence in the 1780s to the eve of world war in 1914. This was the period of Britain's greatest expansion as both empire-builder and dominant world power. The volume is divided into two parts. The first contains thematic chapters, some focusing on Britain, others on areas at the imperial periphery, exploring those fundamental dynamics of British expansion whcih made imperial influence and rule possible. They also examine the economic, cultural, and institutional frameworks whcih gave shape to Britain's overseas empire. Part 2 is devoted to the principal areas of imperial activity overseas, including both white settler and tropical colonies. Chapters examine how British interests and imperial rule shaped individual regions' nineteenth-century political and socio-economic history. Themes dealt with include the economics of empire, imperial institutions, defence, technology, imperial and colonial cultures, science and exploration. Attention is given not only to the formal empire, from Australasia and the West Indies to India and the African colonies, but also to China and Latin America, often regarded as central components of a British `informal empire'.
Is America an empire? Certainly not, according to our government. Despite the conquest of two sovereign states in as many years, despite the presence of more than 750 military installations in two thirds of the world’s countries and despite his stated intention "to extend the benefits of freedom...to every corner of the world," George W. Bush maintains that "America has never been an empire." "We don’t seek empires," insists Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We’re not imperialistic."

Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it’s a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it’s an empire in denial—a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. In an alarmingly persuasive final chapter Ferguson warns that this chronic myopia also applies to our domestic responsibilities. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from within—and it will reveal that more than just the feet of the American colossus is made of clay.

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