Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain
This volume comprehensively examines how metropolitan Britons spoke and wrote about the British Empire during the short eighteenth century, from about 1730 to 1790. The work argues that following several decades of largely uncritical celebration of the empire as a vibrant commercial entity that had made Britain prosperous and powerful, a growing familiarity with the character of overseas territories and their inhabitants during and after the Seven Years' War produced a substantial critique of empire. This critique evolved out of a widespread revulsion against the behaviours exhibited by Britons overseas and built on a language of 'otherness' that metropolitans had used since the beginning of overseas expansion to describe its participants, the societies and polities that Britons abroad constructed in their new habitats. It used the languages of humanity and justice as standards to evaluate and condemn the behaviours of both overseas Britons and subaltern people in the British Empire, whether in India, the Americas, Africa or Ireland.