A New Statesman Best Book of the Year
“Powerful and radically important.”
—Robert Gildea, Times Literary Supplement
“Bracingly describes the ways imperialist historiography has shaped visions of the future as much as the past.”
—Pankaj Mishra, New York Review of Books
“An account of how the discipline of history has itself enabled the process of colonization…A coruscating and important reworking of the relationship between history, historians, and empire.”
—Kenan Malik, The Guardian
For generations, the history of the British Empire was written by its victors, whose accounts of conquest guided the consolidation of imperial rule in India, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. British historians’ narratives of the development of imperial governance licensed the brutal suppression of colonial rebellion. Their reimagining of empire during the two world wars compromised decolonization. In this brilliant work, Priya Satia shows how these historians not only interpreted the major political events of their time but also shaped the future that followed.
From the imperial histories of John Stuart Mill and Winston Churchill to the works of anticolonial thinkers such as William Blake, Mahatma Gandhi, and E. P. Thompson, Satia captures two opposing approaches to the discipline of history and illuminates the ethical universe that came with them. Against the backdrop of enduring inequalities and a crisis in the humanities, hers is an urgent moral voice.