Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire

Regular price $ 24.00

by Caroline Elkins

Vintage

10/21/2023, paperback

SKU: 9780307473493

 

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian: a searing study of the British Empire that probes the country's pervasive use of violence throughout the twentieth century and traces how these practices were exported, modified, and institutionalized in colonies around the globe

Sprawling across a quarter of the world's land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain's twentieth-century empire was the largest empire in human history. For many Britons, it epitomized their nation's cultural superiority. But what legacy did the island nation deliver to the world? Covering more than two hundred years of history, Caroline Elkins reveals an evolutionary and racialized doctrine that espoused an unrelenting deployment of violence to secure and preserve the nation's imperial interests. She outlines how ideological foundations of violence were rooted in the Victorian era calls for punishing recalcitrant "natives," and how over time, its forms became increasingly systematized. And she makes clear that when Britain could no longer maintain control over the violence it provoked and enacted, it retreated from empire, destroying and hiding incriminating evidence of its policies and practices.

Drawing on more than a decade of research on four continents, Legacy of Violence implicates all sides of Britain's political divide in the creation, execution, and cover-up of imperial violence. By demonstrating how and why violence was the most salient factor underwriting Britain's empire and the nation's imperial identity at home, Elkins upends long-held myths and sheds new light on empire's role in shaping the world today.

Reviews:

"Sweeping and detailed . . . With its enormous breadth and ambition, [ Legacy of Violence] amounts to something approaching a one-volume history of imperial Britain's use of force, torture, and deceit around the world. . . . Assembling so many examples spread widely across space and time allows Elkins to build an impressively damning account of the British Empire." --Howard W. French, The Nation

"A scathing indictment . . . [A] tour de force of historical excavation . . . Offering numerous correctives to Whitewashed history, the author mounts potent attacks against the egregious actions of vaunted figures. . . . [ Legacy of Violence is] top-shelf history offering tremendous acknowledgement of past systemic abuses." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[Elkins'] detailed description of British policy and actions in Ireland, India, Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, Nyasaland, Jamaica, and Palestine makes for unsettling, yet necessary reading. . . . Thoroughly researched and presented in scrupulous detail, this tale of 'legalized violence, ' founded on a racism not even thinly disguised, is a must-read for serious students of history." --David Keymer, Library Journal (starred review)

About the Author:

Caroline Elkins is professor of history and of African and African American studies at Harvard University and the founding director of Harvard's Center for African Studies. Her first book, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, was awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. She is a contributor to The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. She has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including NPR's All Things Considered and BBC's The World. She lives in Watertown and Marion, Massachusetts.