Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt

From The Guardian:

BookGott's achievement is to show, as no historian has done before, that violence was a central, constant and ubiquitous part of the making and keeping of the British empire. This vivid and startling book embarks on a journey through the origins of Queen Victoria's Pax Britannica. Except that Gott shows in 66 short, gripping chapters, which take us from North America to the Caribbean, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia, that the span from 1750 to 1860 was never peaceful. Not a year passed, he shows, without conflicts, large and small wars, uprisings, repression and reprisals of astonishing brutality. This kind of study is newer than it seems: while in France there has been Rosa Plumelle-Uribe's La férocité blanche (2001) and Marc Ferro's Livre Noir de Colonialisme (2003), only John Newsinger's shorter The Blood Never Dried (2006) has ever portrayed with such system the dark side of the British empire, or told so fully the stories of those who resisted it.

Imperial history is so often viewed with triumphalism, nostalgia or regret, luring the reader into a patriotic investment in a fictional national past. Gott instead always writes from the perspective of the victims and rebels. We are introduced to a dazzling series of extraordinary men and women – Pontiac in North America, Tacky and Nanny in Jamaica, Papineau in Quebec, Wickrama Sinha in Ceylon, Myat Toon in Burma, Lakshmi Bai in India – who stood at the centre of communities in revolt. Gott shows the injustices that pushed them on the dangerous road of resistance, and makes us partners in their moments of victory and defeat. Yet he is always precise in explaining the British imperial interests at stake, and readers with interests in grand strategy and war, or students searching for vignettes to anchor essays, will derive as much pleasure and benefit from Britain's Empire as those reading for the drama of situation and personality.

More here.