This revelatory new history punctures the still widely held belief that the British Empire was an enlightened and civilizing enterprise of great benefit to its subject peoples. Instead, Britain’s Empire reveals a history of systemic repression and almost continual violence, showing how British rule was imposed as a military operation and maintained as a military dictatorship. For colonized peoples, the experience was a horrific one—of slavery, famine, battle and extermination.
Yet, as Richard Gott illustrates, the empire’s oppressed peoples did not go gently into that good night. Wherever Britain tried to plant its flag, there was resistance. From Ireland to India, from the American colonies to Australia, Gott chronicles the backlash. He shows, too, how Britain provided a blueprint for the genocides of twentieth-century Europe, and argues that its past leaders must rank alongside the dictators of the twentieth century as the perpetrators of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale. In tracing this history of resistance, all but lost to modern memory, Richard Gott recovers these forgotten peoples and puts them where they deserve to be: at the heart of the story of Britain’s empire.
This month sees the UK cinema release of Steve McQueen’s brilliant and brutal new film, 12 Years a Slave. McQueen has been vocal in condemning cinema’s wariness in confronting the subjects of slavery and race, and his film has galvanized a new interest in the unspeakably ugly period in American history.
Based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 documentary, 12 Years a Slave takes an unflinching look at the story of a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery.
Verso has long held a commitment to telling similar stories, and we now present a selection of books as the essential starting point for those looking to learn more about the roots, events and legacies of slavery and racial tensions in America and the world.