The Oxford History of The British Empire

The Oxford History of The British Empire

The Oxford History of The British Empire The purpose of the five volumes of the Oxford History of the British Empire was to provide a comprehensive survey of the Empire from its beginning to end, to explore the meaning of British imperialism for the ruled as well as the rulers, and to study the significance of the British Empire as a theme in world history.

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The Oxford History of The British Empire

The Oxford History of The British Empire

A book entitled Ireland and the British Empire might well have been published any time between 1880 and 1904. Then the character of its author and the nature of its contents would have been entirely predictable. Our likely author would have been a public man-of-letters of Protestant background and sympathy who harbored grave reservations concerning the various Home Rule measures that were then in prospect for Ireland.

In writing his book he would have been seeking to persuade his readers— men and women of leisure and influence—to oppose any weakening of Ireland’s constitutional ties with Britain.

He would have done this by extolling the benefits that Ireland had derived from its long association with Britain and its Empire, and by praising the contribution that people of Irish birth or interest had made to Britain’s imperial achievements from the moment of the supposed conception of Empire during the reign of Elizabeth I to the pinnacle of its achievement during that of Queen Victoria.

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The conceiver of this actual book of 2004 is an editor rather than a sole author, and while, like his putative predecessor of a century ago, he is a man, this cannot be taken as either necessary or predictable since three of the nine essayists are women. Neither the editor’s politico-religious preferences, nor those of his contributors, appear relevant to what is being discussed, and they seem to foster no illusions that what they write will influence those who make political decisions today.

None the less our editor and his contributors are just as involved in polemic as our imagined author of the Victorian era, and they too seek to uphold their position by rehearsing Ireland’s association with England and with Britain’s imperial achievements from the close of the sixteenth century to the present.

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