Legacy of Violence

by Caroline Elkins




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"Sprawling across a quarter of the world's land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain's twentieth-century empire was the largest empire in human history. For many Britons, it epitomized their nation's cultural superiority, but what legacy did the island nation deliver to the world? Covering more than two hundred years of history, Caroline Elkins reveals an evolutionary and racialized doctrine that espoused an unrelenting deployment of violence to secure and preserve the nation's imperial interests. She outlines how ideological foundations of violence were rooted in the Victorian era calls for punishing recalcitrant "natives," and how over time, its forms became increasingly systematized. And she makes clear that when Britain could no longer maintain control over the violence it provoked and enacted, it retreated from empire, destroying and hiding incriminating evidence of its policies and practices. Drawing on more than a decade of research on four continents, Legacy of Violence implicates all sides of Britain's political divide in the creation, execution, and cover-up of imperial violence. By demonstrating how and why violence was the most salient factor underwriting Britain's empire and the nation's imperial identity at home, Elkins upends long-held myths and sheds new light on empire's role in shaping the world today." -- Amazon.com. "From the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian: a searing study of the British Empire that interrogates the country's pervasive use of violence throughout the twentieth century and traces how these practices were exported, modified, and institutionalized in colonies around the globe"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member tommi180744
The author has thoroughly researched and constructed a very useful analysis of an especially 'warts & all' depiction of the British Empire comprising as it does of many of the worst excesses of a notably self-serving British colonialism, i.e. violent outrages, including massacres, torture,
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imprisonment without trial, kidnap, extortion etc. to ensure the 'natives' comply with any & all demands of the undeniably racially motivated, English-speaking rulers.
Ms Elkins is no admirer, friend, or even neutral Historian of the exploits of British & Britons overseas: although typically she provides a dispassionate account of the numerous wrongdoings of the British ruling class across the Empire she is in all respects condemnatory of them at every level.
The work provides the critically ferocious antidote to the many histories that attempt to suggest a more balanced approach to what may be deemed good & bad perspectives & outcomes of Imperialism: for Ms Elkins there is only bad, & very, very bad.
It is for the reader to decide if someone who resides & prospers in an entirely Imperial US of A where post-1776 genocide of American Natives & enslavement of Africans continued for as long as the British Empire is really being honest in her moral judgement of Great Britain?
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LibraryThing member ddonahue
Mentioned in Fintan O'Tolle's review of "Left is not Woke", by Susan Neiman in NYRB Nov 2, 2023 issue. "It has to be acknowledged that there are good historical reasons for skepticism about the Enlightenment’s claims to have articulated values for humanity as a whole. It’s not merely that the
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violence of slavery and colonialism exposed the hypocrisy of many of those who claimed to hold those values. It is that the very idea that one was enlightened justified the domination of those who were not. As Caroline Elkins has shown in Legacy of Violence (2022), her rigorous autopsy of the British Empire, the spread of the rule of law (a central Enlightenment project) was the great moral claim of nineteenth-century imperialism. But since the colonized peoples were not yet sufficiently developed to understand it, they could be subjected to what Elkins calls “legalized lawlessness.” This was the catch-22 for nonwhite peoples: until the indefinite point in the future when, under our firm tutelage, you have become sufficiently enlightened to grasp the universality of our principles, those universals exclude you.
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Original language


Physical description

9.45 inches


184792106X / 9781847921062
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