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Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt [Hardcover]

Richard Gott
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Sep 2011
This revelatory new history punctures the widely held belief that the British Empire was an imaginative and civilizing enterprise. Instead, BRITAIN'S EMPIRE reveals a history of systemic repression and almost perpetual violence, showing how British rule was imposed as a military operation and maintained as a military dictatorship. For colonized peoples, the experience was a horrific one, of slavery, famine, battle and extermination. Yet, as Richard Gott shows, the Empire's oppressed peoples did not go quietly into this good night. Wherever Britain tried to plant its flag, it met with opposition. From Ireland to India, from the American colonies to Australia, Gott traces the rebellions and resistance of subject peoples whose all-but-forgotten stories are excluded from traditional accounts of empire. He shows, too, how the British Empire provided a blue print for the annihilation of peoples in twentieth-century Europe, and argues that its leaders must rank alongside the dictators of the twentieth century as authors of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (19 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844677389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844677382
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 16.5 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 348,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A welcome, even necessary, corrective. --Stephen Howe, Independent

A pungent and provocative book ... a rich compendium of revolt. --Gavin Bowd, Scotland on Sunday

About the Author

Richard Gott is a former Latin America correspondent and features editor for the Guardian. A specialist in Latin American affairs, his books include Guerrilla Movements in Latin America, The Appeasers with Martin Gilbert, Land Without Evil, Hugo Chavez and Cuba: A New History. He is currently an honorary research fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 84 people found the following review helpful
The storm caused by this book in the media and the vilification of its author by the BBC "in conversations" with Kwasi Kwarteng and Jeremy Paxman, authors of other recent books on the British Empire, indicates that Gott's book has touched a raw nerve. The book follows an old-fashioned genre - that of a chronicle. Not in strict chronology but thematically linked, the book's 66 odd chapters chronicle a long series of struggles against British colonial rule in every part of the globe, revolts, rebellions and resistance struggles, some of which proved successful and effective, most of which tended to be overwhelmed by brute force. The book does not seek to engage with the question of whether empire was all bad - Gott leaves this question for the Paxmans and the Kwartengs. Instead, he offers a cummulative and powerful document of the extent to which imperial rule was questioned, contested and challenged, something that I am sure the vast majority of people are simply not aware of. In doing so, Gott offers a voice to those who were generally defeated and dominated and whose stories have generally gone unheard.

Gott is not arguing against a received and glorified account of the British Empire, as Paxman and co have charged him, in order to then denounce him as one-dimensional or naive. Instead, he rightly demonstrates that empires rarely earn their legitimacy by persuading, enlightening and 'civilizing' their subjects - a ruthless and often invisible rule of fire and steel is the ultimate source of their power.

A final note. I noticed that in conversations in the media, Gott was patronizingly told that few people believe uncritically in the glory of the British Empire in these days of multi-culturalism and globalization. And yet - how many programmes, films, books etc.
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39 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Many years ago, Tony Blair said-in a speech delivered in 1997- that he valued and honoured the British history enormously, and added that the British empire should not be the cause of apology.
After reading Richard Gott's book on the history of the British Empire, one must be a complete fool in order to agree with Blair's words.
To put it in other words, one can easily conclude that the British empire was one of evil, one which conducted a systematic policy of extermination, one which promoted the use of blood in subjugating and annihilating other peoples. Another claim made in one of his books by the eminent historian Neill Fergusson, in which he said that the British empite brought the benefits of democracy and free trade in Asia and Africa, can only sound preposterous.
Gott's book, which contains 66 chapters, is actually a tome which constitutes a catalogue of crimes. These include murder, famines, starvation, brutal policies, mutinies, extermination policies and many more alike-all courtesy of the Brtish empire perpetuated by its various figures both political and military. To quote from the author's Introduction: " Not a year went by without the inhabitants of the Empire being obliged to suffer involuntary participation in the colonial experience. The Empire was the fruit of military conquest and of brutal wars involving physical and cultural extermination. It is the belief that Britain's imperial experience ranks more closely with the exploits of Genghiz Khan ot Attila the Hun than with those of Alexander the Great. It is sugggested that the rulers of the British Empire will one day be perceived to rank with the dictators of the twentieth century as the authors of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale".
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21 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Britain's Empire is a great book, a brilliant deconstruction of the rose tinted view of empire. I have not been able to read more than a short chapter at a time. Why? because of my complete revulsion at the brutal and genocidal nature of our political, military and business leaders in the time of expansion of empire. No one should be surprised by this, least of all a skeptic like me. However, the sheer scale of the repressive brutality used to subdue, destroy and enslave generations of indigenous people is horrific. I would advise readers to weave the facts into their critique of politicians as we find them now and to absolutely challenge any attempt to portray the so called British Empire as anything but a brutal and genocidal imperialism. Also, I would advise going back to the source material, read about the attitudes of the day in Parliament. Indigenous people were treated as aliens, ripe for destruction when they stood in the way of imperial expansion. Of course, this is hardly a surprise to the people of Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the truth about the empire 29 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
would recommend this to anyone who is prepared to listen to what the empire was really like - brutal, cruel and racist
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Timely revisionism 6 Jan 2013
Got this book recommended by a friend of mine. I thought it was quite an interesting and enlightening read. Yes, it does sound a bit biased at times - but then again couldn't the same thing be said about Niall Ferguson, Jan Morris and all those other defenders of the idea of empire. In stark, no-nonsense prose, Gott highlights the wide variety of crimes committed by those wanting to displace native peoples and replace them with non-indigenous settlers. The range of crimes committed against the natives is indeed shocking and includes (among other things) the deliberate spreading of smallpox (as in the case of the north American territories) and the government-backed use of death squads ( for example, against the aborigines in Tasmania or the Xhosa people in South Africa). If the book has a fault, it is its somewhat rambling, episodic structure. As another reviewer has said, Gott seems to jump from one thing to the other, with the narrative swinging from Africa to Australia and back within the course of just a few pages. Also, another criticism: Gott seem hellbent on including every last instance of mutinous dissatisfaction against the British - including what seem to me like fairly trite expressions of popular discontent. Overall, the book is to be applauded, though, for it reminds us once again of the evils of forced colonisation. PS: I wanted to give the book 3 stars, but I'm going to give it four because I have the very strong impression that many of those who are giving it one star - such as Widget - haven't even read the book. Come on, people. It is one thing to read the book and give it a one-star rating because you didn't like it. But to give the book a one-star rating without even having read it - well, that's just malicious, dogmatic and high-handedly despicable.
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