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The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography$
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Robin Winks

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205661

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205661.001.0001

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Imperial Defence

Imperial Defence

(p.342) 22 Imperial Defence
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography

David Killingray

Oxford University Press

Empires are gained by force and need to be maintained by force, and it was ever so true with the British Empire. The term ‘Imperial defence’ gained a specific meaning in the last decades of the 19th century when it came to be applied to an integrated system of defence for the home islands, the overseas territories whether formally or informally held, and the commercial and strategic links between them. This chapter is concerned principally with the historiography of the military and the schemes and strategies devised between the 1880s and 1960s to defend an Empire that was often overstretched, under threat from foreign powers, and where alien British rule was increasingly challenged by unwilling subjects. In the late 19th century, ideas on Imperial defence were discussed in service and other journals intended to influence ministers and service chiefs. The debate over Imperial defence was included in most of the general histories of British Imperial relations of the time, often by enthusiastic proponents of colonial ideology. The debate over Britain’s decline from Imperial Great Power status seems set to continue as part of the broader debate on decolonization.

Keywords:   British Empire, Imperial defence, historiography, foreign powers, British rule, colonial ideology, Imperial Great Power, decolonization, Britain

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