From Publishers Weekly
This addition to the Modern Library Chronicles series is described by the author as "a very short book on a very big subject." Happily, Pagden handles the topic with skill, learning, wit and balance. A professor of history at Johns Hopkins, Pagden has written extensively on empires, imperialism and human migration. His new offering is an overview summarizing the influence of empires on the development of civilization. Beginning with the first empire in European history, that of Alexander the Great, which was also the first empire to claim a universal scope, Pagden goes on to examine the land-based empires of Rome and the Hapsburgs that gave way to the seagoing empires of England and the Netherlands. The author makes much of the fact that these last two commercial empires were founded to be "empires of liberty," but derived much of their wealth and power from the exploitation of slave labor. Pagden has not written a screed against European hegemony, though. He knows full well the good and the bad of these institutions ("Most empires have offered their subject peoples a combination of opportunities and restraints"), and he impressively illustrates the ways in which the history of empire has for many centuries past been in fact the history of the human race. (on sale Apr.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
Pagden's (Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France 1500-1800; European Encounters with the New World) elegant series of essays, connected by his theories on European efforts at empire, does not so much define empire as discuss the evolution of the phenomenon. Pagden looks at our needs for travel and for cities, needs that he sees as necessary requisites of an empire. Alexander the Great created Europe's first empire, which was held together largely by his personality. In trying to imitate Alexander, the Romans created the model for all time. Politically, all European countries with ambitions of empire have imitated Rome, and the Catholic Church reinforced this model in the spiritual realm. Pagden's chapters on the Spanish Empire are exemplary, yet the chapter on slavery and the admission that this institution irreparably stains Europe's empires allows him to discuss the demise of empire, the rise of nationalism, and the directions in which these developments could take civilization. Recommended as a good overview for general readers. Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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