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The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Ideas in Context) Paperback – September 4, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0521789783 ISBN-10: 0521789788 Edition: 0th

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Editorial Reviews


"Winner of the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Award 2000"

"The ideological Orgins of the British Empire provides a learned and stimulating contribution to a number of areas of scholarly inquiry...compelling." Tearsheet From William and Mary Quarterly

The book triumphantly provides a very obvious answer: the aspirations and experiences of the people of the British Isle shaped concepts of empire." The International History Review Dec 2001

"All readers will have their favorite sections of this engaging book." Journal of Modern History

"Armitage (Columbia Univ.) used some 200 books published in the British Isles between 1550 and 1750, in addition to manuscripts in English and Scottish archives, as sources for this erudite study of the conceptual underpinning of the transatlantic "first British empire"." CHOICE March 2001

Book Description

David Armitage presents the first comprehensive history of British conceptions of empire for half a century, tracing the emergence of British imperial identity from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries. This book sheds new light on major British political thinkers, from Sir Thomas Smith to David Hume, by providing novel accounts of the 'British problem' in the early modern period, of the relationship between Protestantism and empire, of theories of property, liberty and political economy in imperial perspective, and of the imperial contribution to the emergence of the British identity.
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Product Details

  • Series: Ideas in Context (Book 59)
  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521789788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521789783
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
David Armitage’s Ideological Origins of the British Empire argues that commercialism, not religion or contractarian theories, influenced the ultimate political ideology of the British Empire. He posits that only the unifying nature of successful trade and cooperation, as opposed to vying religious convictions and interpretations of natural law in politics, could unite Britons into an empire. Noting the fractious nature of the three kingdoms, religiously and politically at odds with one another, he asserts the Empire "was, above all and beyond all other such politics, Protestant, commercial, maritime and free." (p. 8) The process of imperialization was ad hoc, often unplanned and organic in its expansion. Hence, the Empire came to exist before Britons recognized it. For example, Armitage argues that trade provided a more immediate bond than the shared monarchy did between Scotland and England. (p. 40) He writes that, "the vernacular language of British imperial ideology - of 'Great Britain,' 'empire' and 'colony' - was forged in the context of Anglo-Scottish relations in the 1540s" by English and Scottish writers associated with Henry VIII and Protector Somerset (Edward Seymour). (p. 38) Within these sixteenth-century English and Scottish tracts were emphases on a growing commercial empire, with Protestant and maritime traditions as the only shared characteristics between the two kingdoms. In short, Armitage complicates the historiography of the eighteenth century by asserting that the Empire arose haphazardly through commercial interactions predating the religious discourses and political upheavals of seventeenth century.
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