9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2003
If you have already worked through the first volume (and if you haven’t, you should) then you will already be aware of the value of such an approach to history, linking matters that are usually taught separately to give a much better perspective on what was going on.
This theme returns in the eighteenth century. So much is inter-related: industrialisation and the massive growth of the British economy; the demand for sugar, tea, cotton and silk; the competing political theories of autocracy, democracy and the squirearchal/aristocratic hybrid which the English squires and aristocrats not unnaturally felt was the best of all worlds; repeated victories over France, the capture of Quebec, questions on how to govern a largely Roman Catholic province and the implications of the answers for Ireland; the growth of the slave trade and growing opposition to it in Britain; the honouring (or otherwise) of treaties with Indians, both Red and Mogul.
The interplay of all these factors brought about by the end of the century what would have seemed inconceivable two thirds of the way through it: the loss of a largely English empire in North America (thanks to arguments about the consent of the governed) and the acquisition of a Muslim/Hindu one in Bengal and elsewhere in India (where the consent of the governed wasn’t up for discussion).
As well as making the connections between topics I already knew a bit about, the book also flagged up to me a couple of areas that I hadn’t thought about: how capital was flowing around the world, and what happened to America after the revolution. English money was flowing to Bengal and China, because the English were buying cotton, tea and silk, but the Indians and Chinese weren’t buying English manufactures. Also, the Royal Navy was recruited to protect the trade and the help the expansion of the areas under the control of the East India Company. At the same time the agents of the East India Company were essentially looting Bengal, so that the net effects were to enrich Bengali traders at the expense of Bengali taxpayers, and to enrich the nabobs at the expense of the English taxpayer.
And “victory” by the colonists in the American Revolution messed up the American economy for a couple of generations. Suddenly America couldn’t export to the British Caribbean any more, nor (during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars) to the French or Spanish Caribbean or to Europe itself. Yet it continued to import British garments and other products as much as it did before.
There’s a lot of fascinating stuff still to come, so I’m looking forward to reading the volume on the nineteenth century (relatives please note – it’s on my wishlist!).