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The British Empire and the 1918–20 moment

This book explores a particular 1918–20 ‘moment’ in the British Empire’s history, between the First World War’s armistices of 1918, and the peace treaties of 1919 and 1920. That moment, we argue, was a challenging and transformative time for the Empire. While British authorities successfully answered some of the post-war tests they faced, such as demobilisation, repatriation and fighting the widespread effects of the Spanish flu, the racial, social, political and economic hallmarks of their imperialism set the scene for a wide range of expressions of loyalties and disloyalties, and anticolonial movements. The book documents and conceptualises this 1918–20 ‘moment’ and its characteristics as a crucial three-year period of transformation for and within the Empire, examining these years for the significant shifts in the imperial relationship that occurred, and as laying the foundation for later change in the imperial system.

Imperialism, Politics and Society
Author: Martin Thomas

In the twenty years between the end of the First World War and the start of the Second, the French empire reached its greatest physical extent. At the end of the First World War, the priority of the French political community was to consolidate and expand the French empire for, inter alia, industrial mobilisation and global competition for strategic resources. The book revisits debates over 'associationism' and 'assimilationism' in French colonial administration in Morocco and Indochina, and discusses the Jonnart Law in Algeria and the role of tribal elites in the West African colonies. On the economy front, the empire was tied to France's monetary system, and most colonies were reliant on the French market. The book highlights three generic socio-economic issues that affected all strata of colonial society: taxation and labour supply, and urban development with regard to North Africa. Women in the inter-war empire were systematically marginalised, and gender was as important as colour and creed in determining the educational opportunities open to children in the empire. With imperialist geographical societies and missionary groups promoting France's colonial connection, cinema films and the popular press brought popular imperialism into the mass media age. The book discusses the four rebellions that shook the French empire during the inter-war years: the Rif War of Morocco, the Syrian revolt, the Yen Bay mutiny in Indochina, and the Kongo Wara. It also traces the origins of decolonisation in the rise of colonial nationalism and anti-colonial movements.

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Clausewitz, Darwin, Henty and others
W.J. Reader

I Kitchener’s armies marched away to war of a kind that no one had seen before; war of a kind that some people said would never break out; war that nearly everyone expected would move fast to a thrilling climax and be over in a matter of months. To a generation that has cause to regard war as unmitigated catastrophe it comes as a shock to find a sensitive, highly educated, highly sophisticated poet - Rupert Brooke - writing, on his way to Gallipoli early in 1915: T

in 'At duty’s call'
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The empire and international crisis in the 1930s
Martin Thomas

As international tension increased during the 1930s, the idea that the empire could compensate for French demographic, economic and military weakness next to the fascist powers gained favour in Paris. It was widely assumed in government and parliament that the colonial contribution to any future war in Europe would exceed that of 1914–18. And

in The French empire between the wars
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The culture of free trade versus the culture of anti-slavery in Britain and the British Caribbean, 1840–50
Philip Harling

the Morant Bay rising, the Maori Wars, and the Indian Rebellion. That shift saw the crumbling of an early Victorian emphasis on the universal improvability of humankind, and its replacement by a later Victorian emphasis on the explicitly racial inferiority of subject peoples, their limited (or even non-existent) capacity to climb up the civilisational ladder and their unfitness for self-government in the foreseeable

in The cultural construction of the British world
British imperial attitudes towards China, 1792–1840
Author: Hao Gao

This book examines British imperial attitudes towards China during their early encounters from 1792 to 1840. It makes the first attempt to bring together the political history of Sino-Western relations and cultural studies of British representations of China, as a new way of understanding the origins of the Opium War – a deeply consequential event which arguably reshaped relations between China and the West for the next hundred years. The book focuses on the crucial half-century before the war, a medium-term (moyenne durée) period which scholars such as Kitson and Markley have recently compared in importance to that of the American and French Revolutions.

This study investigates a range of Sino-British political moments of connection, from the Macartney embassy (1792–94), through the Amherst embassy (1816–17) to the Napier incident (1834) and the lead-up to the opium crisis (1839–40). It examines a wealth of primary materials, some of which have not received sufficient attention before, focusing on the perceptions formed by those who had first-hand experience of China or possessed political influence in Britain. The book shows that through this period Britain produced increasingly hostile feelings towards China, but at the same time British opinion formers and decision-makers disagreed with each other on fundamental matters such as whether to adopt a pacific or aggressive policy towards the Qing and the disposition of the Chinese emperor. This study, in the end, reveals how the idea of war against the Chinese empire was created on the basis of these developing imperial attitudes.

Hao Gao

Lord Napier and most British observers in the mid-1830s could not have foreseen that a large-scale military conflict would break out between Britain and China within just a few years. As discussed in the Introduction, much has been written about this milestone in the history of Sino-Western encounters – the First Anglo-Chinese War, or the Opium War – but some important questions have escaped our close attention. When exactly did the war begin? Some maintain that it was in 1839; others believe that it began in 1840. What was the immediate

in Creating the Opium War
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Custom and practice
Edward M. Spiers

A plentiful by-product of the British wars of empire in the mid- to late nineteenth century was plunder or booty, or as it became commonly known from the mid-nineteenth century term, ‘loot’ (allegedly from the Hindi word lut , to plunder). By these means artefacts from outside the UK would come to adorn, by turn, the Royal Collection, national museums, regimental museums and some stately homes across the country. With the passage of time, items of symbolic or national value have been claimed by their countries of origin (as the Afterword identifies) for

in Dividing the spoils
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Kathryn Castle

There has been a tendency among historians to view the great wars as watersheds in the narrative of history. It is perhaps useful then to consider whether the inter-war years brought significant change in the images forged before the First World War, or whether the patterns of representation set in an earlier

in Britannia’s children
Chandrika Kaul

pretty heavily afterwards from the political point of view, but this is not the moment when we can even think about ulterior consequences. 1 Valentine Chirol’s observations, made when significant numbers of Indian troops were fighting in France at the start of the First World War, highlight

in Reporting the Raj