Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire

Caroline Elkins. Knopf, $35 (896p) ISBN 978-0-307-27242-3
A brutal reality underpinned the British Empire’s ideology of civic uplift, according to this sweeping historical study. Harvard historian Elkins (Imperial Reckoning) surveys 20th-century milestones in Britain’s bloody efforts to suppress unrest in its colonies and mandates, including the Boer War, Ireland’s War of Independence, the 1919 Amritsar Massacre in India, revolts in Palestine by Arabs and Jews, the post-WWII clash with Communist guerrillas in Malaya, and the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. It’s a somber record: time and again imperial authorities imposed the “legalized lawlessness” of martial law and states of emergency and carried out imprisonments without trial, censorship, beatings, torture, demolitions of houses and villages, air raids, assassinations, and starvation of civilians in concentration camps. Elkins argues that the carnage was an inescapable part of Britain’s self-serving, hypocritical creed of “liberal imperialism,” which claimed to be nobly shepherding backward races toward civilization and self-rule—through an iron-fisted despotism. Elkins’s intricate but immersive account is a feat of scholarship that elucidates the bureaucratic and legal machinery of oppression, dissects the intellectual justifications for it, and explores in gripping, sometimes grisly detail the suffering that resulted. The result is a forceful challenge to recent historiographical and political defenses of British exceptionalism that punctures myths of paternalism and progress. Photos. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim & Williams (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 10/19/2021
Release date: 03/15/2022
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-32008-2
Paperback - 1344 pages - 978-0-593-46037-5
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