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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 Shaping of Imperial History

The Shaping of Imperial History

(p.612) 39 The Shaping of Imperial History
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography

A. P. Thornton

Oxford University Press

Imperial historians make no claim to ‘a sense of the whole society’. But where imperialism is routinely stripped, and operated on under halogen lamps, the history of collaboration is still in shadow. Historiography, advises the historian Henri Brunschwig, ‘is not the fact of writing history, but the mode of writing’. The global omnipresence of imperialism naturally promoted it to top-billing on banners of protest. English historians, wary of power, readily distinguish between English expansion and European rapacity overseas. Good government was on the face of it so much better than self-government that the matter was scarcely discussed. Emigrants took ship to better their prospects. A migrant minority took ship in order to take charge at the far end. Transients only, their baggage and outlook stayed intact. The 20th-century empires all ended with long casualty-lists; but it is only the British who are constructing memorials both nostalgic and concrete.

Keywords:   Imperial history, historiography, Henri Brunschwig, imperialism, English expansion, European rapacity, British Empire

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