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  • Published: 24 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781409029076
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 896

Legacy of Violence

A History of the British Empire

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian: a searing, landmark study of the British Empire that lays bare its pervasive use of violence throughout the twentieth century.

'This book is dynamite' - ROBERT GILDEA, author of Empires of the Mind

A searing, landmark study of the British Empire that lays bare its pervasive use of violence throughout the twentieth century.

Sprawling across a quarter of the world's land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain's empire was the largest in human history. For many, it epitomized the nation's cultural superiority, but what legacy have we delivered to the world?

Spanning 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 British imperial interests. She outlines how ideological foundations of violence were rooted in Victorian calls for punishing indigenous peoples who resisted subjugation, and how over time this treatment became increasingly systematised. And she makes clear that when Britain could no longer maintain control over the violence it provoked and enacted, Britain retreated from its 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 the political divide regarding the creation, execution, and cover-up of imperial violence. By demonstrating how and why violence was the most salient factor underwriting both the empire and British imperial identity, Elkins explodes long-held myths and sheds a disturbing new light on empire's role in shaping the world today.

  • Published: 24 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781409029076
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 896

About the author

Caroline Elkins

Caroline Elkins is a Professor of History at Harvard University and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship. Her research for Britain's Gulag was the subject of the BBC documentary 'Kenya: White Terror', which was shown in Britain in November 2002 and was awarded the International Committee of the Red Cross prize at the Monte Carlo Festival. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Also by Caroline Elkins

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Praise for Legacy of Violence

Masterful, crucial ... as unflinching as it is gripping, as carefully researched as it is urgently necessary

Jill Lepore, author of These Truths

The history of the British Empire that we desperately need today... Sweeping, forceful, and passionately argued... A monumental achievement

Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch

In nothing was the British Empire more successful than its skilful concealment of the violence that it unleashed across the globe, over centuries. Caroline Elkins' Legacy of Violence is a laudably ambitious attempt at unearthing this hidden legacy, the bitter fruits of which are becoming more and more visible every day

Amitav Ghosh, author of The Nutmeg's Curse

A clear, incisive account of the way in which the British maintained public order in the colonies through 'lawful lawlessness'... An exceedingly valuable book on the dark side of the British Empire

Wm. Roger Louis, Editor-in-Chief of Oxford History of the British Empire

A gripping, richly peopled, epic narrative... In stunning prose and drawing on staggering research, Elkins uncovers the reality of routine and ruthlessly violent suspension of law and militarized policing as imperial personnel and practices moved from crisis to crisis around the globe

Priya Satia, author of Time's Monster: How History Makes History

Masterly... demonstrates that the British Empire, far from being part good, part bad, baked together from the outset state-sponsored violence and institutional racism with a periodic rewriting of its history as one of progress and civilisation, covering up atrocities and hiding or destroying incriminating documents. This book is dynamite

Robert Gildea, author of Empires of the Mind

A thumping great study by a heavyweight academic historian

Robbie Millen, The Times, *Books to Look Out For 2022*

Illuminating and authoritative... The repression and violence Elkins narrates on an epic scale matters because they continue to reverberate tragically in our global present

Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire

A work of deep archival achievement that creates a historical argument that is courageous and ambitious... This is a text for our times

Homi Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Legacy of Violence is a formidable piece of research that sets itself the ambition of identifying the character of British power over the course of two centuries and four continents... this history could not be more timely

Tim Adams, Observer

Legacy of Violence...is deeply researched... a powerful, compelling read

Rana Mitter, Financial Times

Fascinating... [Legacy of Violence] is a harrowing read, and one that brings the violence of empire sharply into focus

Alex von Tunzelmann, BBC History Magazine

Vividly written... [Elkins] brings together...episodes in order to draw out what she sees as their commonalities in British imperial doctrine

John Darwin, Times Literary Supplement

[Elkins'] magnum opus... Elkins' achievement is to chronicle how makeshift responses to rebellion evolved into a chillingly standardised playbook for then use of force

Erik Linstrum, History Today

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