Andrew Mackillop
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Complicating the coloniser: Scottish, Irish and Welsh perspectives on British imperialism in Asia
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The introduction considers the value of Irish, Scottish and Welsh perspectives on early British imperialism in Asia between c.1690 c.1820. It argues that this framing enables global, East India Company, British, Irish and local histories to be blended in new ways. Decentring metropolitan society in this manner mirrors the historiographic trend towards collapsing boundaries between the ‘overseas’, empire and the ‘domestic core’. Shifting attention towards the less financially affluent areas of the British and Irish Isles allows models of early modern Europe’s expansion to be tested in fresh ways. Defined here as the ‘metropolitan provinces’ of the British and Irish Isles, the chronology and method of Scottish, Irish and Welsh involvement in one hemisphere of British expansion remains understudied. This is especially the case when compared with the Atlantic world. Recovering the extent, timing and consequences of Irish, Scottish and Welsh links to Asia fills a significant lacuna in the early modern histories of all three countries. These societies also provide case studies of ‘semi-peripheries’ associated with World Systems theory or the ‘comparative disadvantaged Europe’ framework used in ‘Great Divergence’ models. They do this by enabling consideration of how ‘poor’ Europe – meaning those societies without large reserves of venture capital – used human and social forms of wealth to access globalising forms of colonialism. Having defined these proxy forms of wealth as ‘human capital’, the final section of the introduction considers the role of oceanic social networks (meso-networks) in mobilising such assets.

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Human capital and empire

Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British imperialism in Asia, c.1690–c.1820


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