P. J. Marshall has edited a beautifully produced overview of The British Empire on behalf of Cambridge University. It runs thematically, but covers a lot of ground. Good at taking the story to a more nuanced level.
Understanding The British Empire Ronald Hyam has written a thematically based overview of topics that help explain the motivation, extent and consequences of Empire.
Magazines, Journals and Periodicals on Imperial History
British Empire Magazine Orbis printed 96 weekly editions on The British Empire in the late 1970s. This was itself a reprint of a Time-Life / BBC series from the early 1970s. It was an extremely detailed and wide-ranging series of magazines and well worth trying to locate. You should be able to find them on Ebay. For a detailed list of the contents of each issue click here
The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs Established in 1910 by Alfred Milner as Round Table: A Quarterly Review of the Politics of the British Empire, it reflected a pro-imperial agenda by leading politicians and academics of the time. It quickly became embedded to the idea of promoting the idea of a wider 'Commonwealth' and encouraging self-government for the various colonies and dominions. It is still interested in charting the international relations between the member nations of the Commonwealth and to the wider World.
Australian Historical Studies Published since 1940, this journal looks at the entire stretch of Australian History. Naturally it focusses on the European experience, but the aboriginal experience is also well represented. It used to be known as Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand up until 1967. You can read the abstracts and see a free sample at the website.
Journal of Australian Colonial History Published since 1999, this journal focuses on the colonial period of Australian History. It is published by the University of New England. You can read the abstracts and full length book reviews at the website.
The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History Routledge has been publishing this heavyweight academic journal since 1973. It will keep you abreast of all the most recent developments in imperial studies and history. You can sometimes find them on . You can download a sample copy and see abstracts for all the magazines here
New Zealand Journal of History Published since 1967, This journal inevitably looks at the imperial experience in New Zealand but also can look at the experience in the Southern Pacific in general. You can read the abstracts on the University of Auckland website. They can occasionally be found on
Rhodesiana From 1956 until 1979 the Rhodesian Historical Society published this remarkably well written journal. It doesn't just cover the old Southern Rhodesia but really the entire Central African region. Primacy is certainly accorded to the European experience but there is still much to be gleaned from these pages. What is most remarkable is that they are all being made available to download by Richard Allport online for free in pdf form here. The can occasionally be found in their original form on
South African Historical Journal Published since 1969, this journal looks at the imperial period - although quite a few articles are post 1948. You can read the abstracts and see a free sample at the website.
Durbar Durbar is the Journal of the Indian Military Historical Society and covers the period of the British Indian Army to a considerable depth. It is published four times a year and is sent to members of the Indian Military Historical Society. You can join online at the IMHS Website
Bleak Expectations This is a wonderful series broadcast by the Imperial Broadcasting Service (aka the BBC). It makes fun of all the nineteenth century literary genres in a very witty manner. Suitably imperial in tone, they are laugh out loud funny!
Revolting People This is a series set during the American Revolution where it illustrates the tensions between revolutionaries, loyalists and soldiers as they are forced to coexist thanks to the forceful billeting of British soldiers on unwilling colonists. There are actually 4 series in total but I cannot find any mention of Series 3 or 4 being available.
British and Colonial PDF Books available for Download
The British Empire This was a tract written by T. A. Jackson of the British Communist Party in 1921. This Marxist interpretation is obviously hostile to the idea of Imperialism and looks forward to the day that the various imperial working classes unite as one. Notwithstanding class solidarity, it still sounds very condenscending to what the book refers to as 'coloured peoples of the Empire'.
The British Empire in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century This was a textbook issued in the inter-war years to students in Britain and around the Empire. It is obviously hagiographic about the Empire with an almost 'manifest destiny' idea of Imperialism. It ranges from the Napoleonic Wars to the end of the Great War.
The British Empire: Its origins and Destiny A 1922 book from Canada. A pro-imperial tract originally taken from the Toronto Sentinel. This book is surprisingly religious in tone as it sought to find a biblican precedent for a Christian Empire - perhaps somewhat apposite given the Canadian experiences just a few years earlier during the Great War.
British Empire Series: Volume 1 This is an 1899 pro-imperial overview of The British Empire on a colony by colony basis. Many of the contributors were administrators or eminent pro-imperialists themselves. It was taken from a series of lectures given at the apogee of Imperial ambition - between Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and the setbacks of the Boer War. It was divided into five volumes. This volume discusses India, the Straits Settlements (Malaya), British North Borneo and Hong Kong. Read a contemporary book review
British Empire Series: Volume 4 This is the fourth of the above British Empire Series (not sure where volumes 2 and 3 have got to?). This volume discusses Australasia including the Australian states, New Zealand, New Guinea and various Pacific Islands. Interestingly, it was written just before the Federation of Australia in 1901.
British Empire Series: Volume 5 This is the fifth of the above British Empire Series (not sure where volumes 2 and 3 have got to?). This volume fills in the odds'n'sods. It is an eclectic collection of the various island colonies scattered across the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It also has variety of articles on the communication systems, commodoties and political systems in operation across the Empire, plus much more besides.
The British Empire: Six Lectures Published in 1915 (at the height of the World War), this is a patriotic book designed to show why it was worth fighting for Britain and its illustrious Empire. It was something of a riposte to German criticisms and justification for the war in itself. The lectures cover the creation of the Empire and its development up to 1915.
Democracy and The British Empire Written in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, this book attempted to justify the enormous expansion of the Empire and justify its place as a possible Bulwark to the newly realised threat of Bolshevik Communism. In this cause it intellectually tried to tie the United States to British ideas of democracy before the US would withdraw into its period of isolationism.
Empire on the Seven Seas This was a book written in 1940 and published in America. It was designed to demonstrate to an American audience that the USA had far more in common with The British Empire than with the Fascist states of Germany and Italy currently engaged in war with Britain or even with Communist USSR who were still technically signatories of the Nazi-Soviet pact at this time. The book was designed to nudge US support towards the British.
Stories of The British Empire This book by Agnes Machar was compiled in 1914. It is really a collection of the important nation-building stages in British history and would have served as a text book to many. It has as many stories about Britain as it does the Empire, but it was all part of the glorification process to inspire young readers to service in the wider Empire and beyond. It would also be used to teach those growing up within the Empire, the history of the 'mother country' and her imperial expansion.
The British Empire This is an interesting book from the 1880s that gives an overview of the forms of government of each of the colonies around the world. It is an analysis to provide some justification for more informal, federated style of Imperial government rather than an extension of British imposed government from the centre. The author, Sir George Campbell, was the MP for Kirkcaldy in Scotland but he was very widely travelled and even served as the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal in the 1870s.
The Oxford Survey of The British Empire: Volume 3 - Africa This is an overview of the continent of Africa written in 1914 - before the outbreak of the World War. It deliberately does not delve into the history of the various colonies, rather it examines their geography, peoples and economic overview and ambitions for the then future. It includes some interesting maps and plenty of facts and figures.
The Oxford Survey of The British Empire: Volume 6 - General Survey This volume of the series discusses various administrative, practical and legal issues surrounding governing such a vast empire. It includes such sections as education, defence, health, communications etc... It is quite a practical overview of issues of governance and coordination over such vast distances.
The British Empire Written in 1899, Charles Dilke was a radical imperialist who thought that The British Empire was a force for good per se, but that within that empire, it should be a progressive agent of change to benefit the subject peoples.
Progress of The British Empire Written during the Boer War, this book by J. Stanley Little, was a remarkably prescient book that anticipated that the Great Power rivalry and jealousy of The British Empire might lead to the outbreak of a general conflagration. It is a little more sceptical of the benefits of imperialism compared to most of his contemporaries, but is still generally convinced of the civilising nature of the Empire.
The Foundation and Growth of The British Empire This was a text book written and published during the baptism of the First World War. It was written by James Williamson, it spans from the Tudor age to the outbreak of the war. Interestingly, it has some very nice maps to illustrate the growth of the empire over the years.
A New Government for The British Empire This 1912 pamphlett by F.W.Bussell was an interesting attempt to give a rationale (and mechanisms) for a new Imperial government. It is interesting that the author was something of an authority on the Roman Empire - parallels that all good imperialists would have been keen to emulate and learn from. It basically wanted to recreate the House of Lords as an 'Imperial Senate' whilst devolving many powers to the individual colonies. It was a far different model from that one enacted at Westminster in 1931.
Round The British Empire Written by Alex Hill, this was something of an educational travelogue to illuminate the scope and scale of The British Empire. It is supposed to teach some geography and history and introduce the reader to the positive aspects of the Imperial adventure.