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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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The Second British Empire

The Second British Empire

(p.54) 3 The Second British Empire
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography

C. A. Bayly

Oxford University Press

The historiography of the second British Empire of the period 1783–1860 was already in vigorous debate at the very time when that the Empire was being established. From the American Revolution onwards, writers of histories began to take up a number of broad positions on this phase of British territorial expansion that set the terms of debate for the next century. The overlapping traditions in writing on the British Empire persisted into the later 19th century, but a distinct set of themes began to emerge from about 1880 and held sway until the First World War. The historical interpretations during 1950–80, specifically the motive force of British expansion, are discussed. Moreover, the historical interpretations in the 1980s and 1990s are explored. Some Imperial historians, especially in Britain, have deplored what they see as the politicization of Imperial history by issues of gender, race, and ‘post-coloniality’. While the naiveté of some of this work deserves their disparagement, this chapter has argued that Imperial history has always been intensely political.

Keywords:   second British Empire, American Revolution, British territorial expansion, First World War, politicization, Imperial history

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