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Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850 Paperback – September 12, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400075467
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400075461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her debut book, Jasanoff challenges the idea that the British Empire imposed its own culture on its colonies, arguing instead that the empire thrived because it was able to "find ways of accommodating difference." As evidence, she traces the history of objects collected in India and Egypt by "border-crossers": diplomats and soldiers, "aristocrats and Grand Tourists" who, by collecting artifacts, influenced the homeland's perception of colonized countries. As she explains how various collections were put together through theft, excavation and connoisseurship, she personalizes the history by profiling those who were fueled to collect by the need for reinvention and pursuit "of social status and wealth." Jasanoff's narrative is most notable for synthesizing the study of architecture, art and commerce, as well as military and cultural history, and for digging deeper than predecessors. For example, in addition to the East India Company's infamous Robert Clive, she also profiles Clive's virtually forgotten son Edward, a much more ambitious collector. In this intriguing and readable book, Jasanoff, an assistant professor of British history at the University of Virginia, creates fertile common ground between the dominant stories put forth by postcolonial critics such as Edward Said and boosters like Niall Ferguson. 48 b&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Unlike typical historical narratives of British imperialism, Jasanoff's story only tangentially touches on its military component. It encompasses a different aspect of the empire: collecting Indian and Egyptian antiquities. In this postcolonial cultural atmosphere, that practice may seem akin to looting, but during the period Jasanoff considers, it was viewed less disapprovingly, as shown in her richly descriptive accounts of several collectors. The actual items amassed are secondary to Jasanoff's primary focus: how collecting represented the lives of people such as Robert Clive, who extended British suzerainty from its foothold in Calcutta, or the flamboyant circus-performer-cum-collector Giambattista Belzoni, an early excavator of pharaonic monuments in the 1810s. In the collectors' trades and purchases from local potentates, Jasanoff encounters a complex of interactions irreducible to a narrative of colonial oppression, although she acknowledges that the encroaching influences of Anglo-French rivalry and warfare were the fundamental facilitators of the collecting craze. A sympathetic biographer, Jasanoff is also a supple appraiser of acquisitiveness as symbolic of ambition, taste, and a certain time. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Saleem Ali on October 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
If there was ever a `clash of civilisations' it was arguably during the age of colonies where cultures, values, religions and industries convulsed together. The interactions were mostly fractious but occasionally there were some constructive paths that got paved along the way. Compulsive wealth seeking on the part of the colonialists made interactions with the `other' compulsory at one level. No matter how much they may have tried to wall themselves within the sanctuary of clubs and salons, contact with the colonised was inevitable.

In some cases, the contact was alluring and left its mark in strange ways that revealed how human beings have a remarkable propensity for connections -- often through the collection of objects. The resplendent museums that we savour in many Western capitals today are a result of this urge, which in some cases was outright theft, but in others was a more nuanced acquisitive process. Maya Jasanoff has provided a humanising history of this time that addresses the process of mutual change during colonisation through the eyes of these collectors.

Spanning the period of British colonisation of the Indian subcontinent and Egypt from 1750 -1850, Jasanoff has uncovered a fascinating world where British aristocrats try to take on Eastern traditions and cultures. The mere act of collecting art may seem like a self-centred proposition to many but it shows how an ability `cross borders' in multiple ways. As the daughter of an Indian mother and an American father (both of whom are now professors at Harvard), Jasanoff has a somewhat personal connection to this narrative.

Collectors tried to understand the stories behind the objects that they collected.
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25 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Dee Man on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book has interesting episodes- Lucknow, Seringpatam , Egypt and the role of France versus the British,-but lacks a logic or argument which would justify the book. It touches on europeans collecting local objects and local rulers buying foreign technology and advice to defend themselves However as it starts in North America, there should be discussion of why artefacts of North American Indians were not collected. On the other hand there could be some reference to the tradition of collecting of antiquities ( see Jonathon Scott Pleasures of Antiquity or the catalogue of the exhibition at the Gulbenkian Foundation Exotica )The role of France in opposing the British in India should have been argued through : intriguing in the Mutiny but allies in the Crimean War ?

In general the prose is over adjectived, why is the Dictionary of national Biography " compendious ", when is is actuaully comprehensive ?

And the illustrations are a disgrace, too small and dark, the wonderful Col.Mordaunt's Cockfight reproduces as a black postage stamp
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1 of 21 people found the following review helpful By S. Manchikanti on January 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I ordered the book before i went on an international trip, hoping that it would be delivered before i came back - it was! Also, the book was in mint condition practically.
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