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The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire Paperback – 24 Sep 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bookmarks; New Edition edition (24 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905192126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905192120
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 5.6 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Synopsis

George Bush's 'War on Terror' has inspired a forest of books about the new American Empire. But what about Britain's role in the world? "A People's History of the British Empire" challenges the claim that the British Empire was a kinder, gentler empire and suggests that the description of 'Rogue State' is more fitting. How many people today know about Britain's deep involvement in the opium drug trade in China, or that Tony Blair's hero Gladstone devoted his maiden parliamentary speech to defending his family's slave plantation in Jamaica? John Newsinger has written a wonderful popular history of key episodes in British imperial history. He pays particular attention to the battles of the colonised to free themselves of its baleful rule, including Rebellion in Jamaica; The Irish Famine; The Opium Wars; The Great Indian Rebellion; The Conquest of Egypt; Palestine in Revolt; 'Quit India' and the struggle for Independence; Suez; Malaya; Kenya and Rhodesia; and, Britain and American Imperialism.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The "People's History" series has a well-deserved reputation, even if it is not a coordinated undertaking by any particular publisher. This book does not diminish that reputation. "The Blood Never Dried" is a people's history of the British Empire, and as such is an overdue critical, systematic examination of the litany of crimes, murders, and exploitations of all parts of the world undertaken under the banner of the Union Jack. At the risk of repeating other reviewers, the book examines in order: (1) Jamaica and slavery, (2) the Irish famine, (3) the Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion (though not the Boxers), (4) the Sepoy Rebellion, (5) the colonization of Egypt, (6) WWI, (7) the settling and revolt of interwar Palestine, (8) Indian independence, (9) the Suez Crisis, (10) the Mau-Mau Rebellion, (11) the suppression of the revolt in Malaya, and (12) Britains relationship with American imperialism. In all of these cases, the author John Newsinger portrays without bloodlust but with great gravity and seriousness the enormities and crimes committed by and through imperialism, from widespread famines to systematic torture, murder, and repression. As Newsinger makes clear by this comparative process, there is no imperialism, whether 19th or 21st century, that can do without these elements: it was ever thus.

In each case too the author makes clear how the peoples of the colonized and imperialized countries rebelled against and resisted imperialism.
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A richly deserved counter-blast to Niall Ferguson's Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, which disgracefully glossed over the many crimes against humanity committed in the name of British imperial power. The fact that Newsinger's book received so little attention when it came out speaks volumes. For another study in the same vein that focuses on the 20th century up to the present, see Mark Curtis's Web Of Deceit: Britain's Real Foreign Policy: Britain's Real Role in the World. You will see Britain and the world rather differently if you read these books.
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John Newsingers "The Blood Never Dried" might be subtitled as a "Peoples History of the British Empire" but it is nothing of the sort. What the reader will instead find is a fine piece of writing that rather than providing a linear history of the Empire, examines a number of historical episodes that starkly illuminate what under girded the Empires existence: brutality and violence.

The selection is from what is known as the second British Empire, that which existed after the loss of the American colonies during the late eighteenth century. The episodes examined are (1) Jamaica and Slavery, (2) The Irish Famine, (3) The Opium Wars in China, (4) The 1857-58 Rebellion (Mutiny) in India, (5) The Invasion of Egypt in 1882, (6) The Imperial Crisis subsequent to WW1, (7) The Palestine Revolt of the late 1930's, (8) The campaign for Indian Independence, (9) The Suez War, (10) Kenya and the Mau-Mau Insurrection, (11) Malaya's "Emergency", and (12) Britains relationship with American Imperialism.

Each chapter focussing on one of the subjects (as listed above) and also put the events described into a broader historical context, including many quotes from contemporary participants and observers. It also reminds the reader that what a vicious racist Churchill could be, not least in relation to Iraq (where he spoke up for gassing recalcitrant tribes) and India (where even his viceroy in India was appalled at his callous response to the Bengal Famine that cost millions of Indian lives). Those who have fond memories of Old Labour will be disturbed to discover that one area of continuity between New and Old is foreign policy. Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison and even Clement Atlee were quite as capable of carrying out brutal imperial policies as their Conservative opponents.
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Other reviewers have laid out the great strengths of this book, so I won't dwell too long on them. The number one strength is the breadth of topics and geographical spread, the relatively short chapters, each one an essay covering the conflict between those who were colonised and their British imperial oppressors.

Each of these chapters/essays is well buttressed by the breadth and depth of research that Newsinger has put into them and the notes and bibliography are a rich source of follow up reading for anyone wishing to go into more depth on particular issues. I've read quite a few books simply on the basis of them being referenced in this one, so it's not just an antidote to obscene attempts to resurrect imperial respectability but a great introduction to a variety of topics and a rich source of further reading.

It's a book that should be in every socialist's collection.
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The author of this useful outline of the British Empire is a history lecturer at Bath Spa University College.

In the early 19th century, the Empire gained vast profits from slavery. 13 million people were kidnapped from Africa; two million died or were killed en route. The 1831 slave rebellion in Jamaica played a key role in overthrowing slavery in the British Caribbean.

During the 19th century, the British state waged three `Opium wars' to force the drug on China. As American historian John K. Fairbanks wrote, Britain's opium trade was `the most long-continued and systematic crime of modern times'.

India's 1857 rising for national liberation was `a national revolt' (Disraeli), `a national war' (Governor-General Lord Canning). The British government as usual accused the rebels of rape and torture (later British investigations proved these accusations to be lies), to incite its forces to commit appalling atrocities against the Indian people.

Gladstone's Liberal government ordered British forces to invade Egypt and Sudan in 1882-84. They massacred tens of thousands of people at Alexandria, Tel-el-Kebir and Omdurman.

After World War One, fought supposedly for the rights of small nations, some of the colonies, like Ireland, Egypt, India, Iraq and Palestine, decided to fight for their freedom. The Empire resisted, with its usual methods of barbarism. In Ireland, Churchill and Lloyd George enthusiastically backed the `Black and Tans' death squads.

Of the Iraq war, T. E. Lawrence wrote in 1920, "Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure.
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