Volume I of the Oxford History of the British Empire explores the origins of empire. It shows how and why England, and later Britain, became involved with transoceanic navigation, trade, and settlement during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The chapters, by leading historians, both illustrate the interconnections between developments in Europe and overseas and offer specialist studies on every part of the world that was substantially affected by British colonial activity. As late as 1630, involvement with regions beyond the traditional confines of Europe was still tentative; by 1690 it had become a firm commitment.
About the Series:
The Oxford History of the British Empire is a major new assessment of the Empire in the light of recent scholarship and the progressive opening of historical records. It deals with the interaction of British and non-western societies from the Elizabethan era to the late twentieth century, provides a balanced treatment of the ruled as well as the rulers, and takes into account the significance of the Empire for the peoples of the British Isles. All five of the volumes in this series fully explore economic and social as well as political trends.
The first two volumes of this five-volume history of the British Empire establish a very high standard of scholarship. Over three dozen scholars examine both major and minor aspects of the modern imperial experience. The chronological focus develops from the 16th century, when Ireland was the starting point of the empire, to the end of the 18th, when the 13 American Colonies were lost. The essays form an interlocking analysis of the origins of empire from an intellectual, military, economic, and technological perspective. There is some overlap; for example, several essays discuss the role of naval power, but each author approaches the topic with a different focus, such as technology in N.A.M. Rogers's essay and politics in John Appleby's. The various chapters, therefore, reinforce the overall picture instead of being redundant. Separate chapters in the first volume analyze the origins and implementation of the British imperial expansion, or contraction, in each region and then continue in the second volume, as do discussions of new subjects, such as the colonization of Australia. The interrelationship between the mother country and the Colonies also receives continued emphasis. Jonathan Israel's chapter, in Volume 1, on the continental perspective of British empire building helps place events in an even broader context. There is a short bibliography after each chapter. Three following volumes will see the empire through to its 20th-century decline. Recommended for all libraries.--Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati