The British Empire Library

Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression And Revolt

by Richard Gott

Courtesy of OSPA

Nigel Inkster (Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk, International Institute of Strategic Studies, and former senior intelligence official)
Richard Gott's Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt is a work of unabashed revisionism whose central thesis is that the establishment of Britain's empire over two hundred years consisted of unremitting violence and repression and lacked any redeeming qualities. In one sense Gott is right in that the history of the British Empire is a clash between two worlds; one traditional and one characterised by industrial and scientific innovation and the values of the Enlightenment. And human nature being what it is, that clash was bound to go badly. But to suggest, as Gott does, that Britain's imperial evolution was a precursor to the genocidal conflicts affecting Europe in the Twentieth Century is arrant nonsense. Nor does Gott give Britain any credit for contributions such as the suppression of slavery or the policing of the global commons, in particular the sea lanes of communication, which have been so critical to modern economic development. Indeed Gott characterises Britain's efforts to suppress piracy in South-east Asia as a "reign of terror" on the basis that British naval technology was manifestly superior to that of the Malay pirates against whom it was deployed; by that criterion, almost every military conflict in human history could be so characterised. Gott's visceral anti-imperialism greatly detracts from a book which in fact contains much useful detail about many small wars and engagements which Britain did fight But those vulnerable to high blood pressure are probably better advised not to read it.

British Empire Book
Richard Gott
Verso Books
978 1 84885 833 6


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