Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain

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John Darwin's After Tamerlane, a sweeping six-hundred-year history of empires around the globe, marked him as a historian of "massive erudition" (the Guardian) and narrative mastery. In Unfinished Empire, he marshals his gifts to deliver a monumental one-volume history of Britain's imperium―a work that is sure to stand as the most authoritative and compelling treatment of the subject for a generation. It was hailed as one of the 10 best books of 2013 by Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post.

Darwin's penetrating analysis offers a corrective to those who portray the empire as either naked exploitation or a grand "civilizing mission." Far from ever having a "master plan," the British Empire was controlled by a range of interests often at loggerheads with one another and was as much driven on by others' weaknesses as by its own strength.

Unfinished Empire is a remarkable, nuanced history of the most complex polity the world has ever known, and a serious attempt to describe the diverse, contradictory ways―military and cultural―in which empires really function.

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John Darwin has written extensively on the decline of Britain's empire and teaches imperial and global history at Oxford, where he is a Fellow of Nuffield College. His books include After Tamerlane, Britain and Decolonization, and The Empire Project.

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Founded in a fit of absentmindedness, as the saying goes, the British Empire was never a monolithic polity but had different circumstances surrounding the establishment, growth, and rule of its colonies. Combine the variations in its parts and the range of historical opinion about it, from praise to condemnation, and one wonders whether a single-volume history of it is even possible. Darwin confidently forges one, however, that accentuates the decentralized character of the centuries of its expansion, which proceeded in tension with the links of trade, law, and military power between an outpost and London. If imperial control varied from colony to colony, it waxed and waned in a general sequence everywhere. British contact with a foreign land was followed by growth of a colonial society, assertions of autonomy or rebellion, and eventual independence. To contemporaries at all times, the worth and justice of the empire provoked debate that Darwin quotes amid his accounts of empire building in America, Africa, India, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Vast and controversial though his subject, Darwin raises all key historical issues in this solid survey of British imperialism. --Gilbert Taylor

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ISBN 10:  1846140897 ISBN 13:  9781846140891
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