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The Absent-Minded ImperialistsEmpire, Society, and Culture in Britain$
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Bernard Porter

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299591

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299591.001.0001

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Empire and Society

Empire and Society

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Empire and Society
Source:
The Absent-Minded Imperialists
Author(s):

Bernard Porter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299591.003.0001

There can be no presumption that Britain was an essentially ‘imperialist’ nation in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course she was, in the sense of acquiring and ruling an empire; but that empire might not have been as burdensome as it appeared. In any case, ‘British society’ is a highly questionable concept, which obscures the country's enormous social, political, and cultural heterogeneity during most of this period, and the fact that different sectors of it could have reacted in entirely different ways, according to their own situations and interests. Of course, imperialism can be regarded as ubiquitous, if it is defined broadly and loosely; but the more broadly and loosely it is defined, the less useful it becomes as a descriptive and analytical tool. This is the argument of this chapter. Defined usefully, imperialism did not have to impact greatly on British society and culture.

Keywords:   Britain, empire, society, imperialism, culture

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