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Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 Paperback – 4 Sep 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (4 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712665285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712665285
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Masatake Wasa on 3 Dec 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an important work reassessing the empire-building of Britain, the identities of ‘Englishness’ and ‘Britishness’ as well as the process of ‘othering’ and the concept of 'Orientalism'. Linda Colley does this by looking at various captives. These ‘captives’ come in many guises - the people treated in this book are mainly Britons (used here as a shorthand to avoid the perennial problem of English/British) captured in various parts of the world; the first part of the book looks at those who were captured in the Mediterranean area by the Barbary corsairs based in North Africa; the second analyses the captives in North America taken by the native Americans, the Revolutionary Americans and other European powers (mainly France); and third points to India. Colley deals with ‘captives in uniform’, British soldiers stationed abroad towards the end of her book.
These three theatres of captive narratives shadow the outline of the emergence of the British Empire. Very many people from the Atlantic Isles were captured by various non-Europeans and hence were in a position of vulnerability. There was never and could not be a binary difference between the superior, colonising and aggressive imperialists on one hand and the inferior, battered and subjugated ‘other’ on the other. One practical problem limited England/Britain – its population, or lack of it. Until the Malthusian idea became popular, and even after it, the British Empire simply did not have enough manpower to maintain dominance without assistance or at least acquiescence of the (subjugated) non-Europeans. The possibility that Britons could become captives of non-Europeans, different in religion and race, remained all the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By W. Duddy on 4 Jun 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well written account of a momentous period - but from (to me, anyway,) a new viewpoint - that of the captives. Highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 25 Aug 2004
Format: Hardcover
Once, i hoped for a truly comprehensive survey of the British Empire and its global impact. This excellent book is almost the response i wished for. Colley examines "a quarter of a millennium" in an overview of three stages of Britain's expansionist adventure. From the start, she reminds us, Britain's miniscule population and limited resources made it an unlikely candidate for global expansion. Contending with nations better prepared or more experienced in empire-building, the founding of the British Empire was typified by false starts and unlikely events. In using the accounts of prisoners - kidnappees, prisoners of war or other captives, Colley is able to point out how both public views and policies changed during the growth of the Empire. Most important, she argues, is the need to dispel notions that the empire was monolithic in concept or development.
Clearly organised and written with clarity and intensity, Colley opens her study with an example of glaring failure. How many remember Britain's occupation of Tangier on the west coast of Africa? The city was part of a queen's dowry in 1661, giving Britain a control point over the Mediterranean trade routes [Gibraltar came under British power in 1701]. With Spain, France and Italy, not to mention the Dutch, all expanding their sea-going commerce, Tangier was a key location. The British poured immense sums into Tangier to create a fortified city, but it was lost less than a generation later. Colley explains how relations with the "Barbary" states of North Africa drove British foreign policy for many years. Those relations included ongoing efforts to redeem captives taken by corsairs, swift vessels that even raided coastal areas of the British Isles.
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