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Reordering the World:
Essays on Liberalism and Empire
Duncan Bell

Hardcover | 2016 | $39.50 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691138787
456 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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Reordering the World is a penetrating account of the complexity and contradictions found in liberal visions of empire. Focusing mainly on nineteenth-century Britain—at the time the largest empire in history and a key incubator of liberal political thought—Duncan Bell sheds new light on some of the most important themes in modern imperial ideology.

The book ranges widely across Victorian intellectual life and beyond. The opening essays explore the nature of liberalism, varieties of imperial ideology, the uses and abuses of ancient history, the imaginative functions of the monarchy, and fantasies of Anglo-Saxon global domination. They are followed by illuminating studies of prominent thinkers, including J. A. Hobson, L. T. Hobhouse, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, Herbert Spencer, and J. R. Seeley. While insisting that liberal attitudes to empire were multiple and varied, Bell emphasizes the liberal fascination with settler colonialism. It was in the settler empire that many liberal imperialists found the place of their political dreams.

Reordering the World is a significant contribution to the history of modern political thought and political theory.

Duncan Bell is Reader in Political Thought and International Relations at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Christ's College. His books include The Idea of Greater Britain: Empire and the Future of World Order, 1860–1900 (Princeton).


"Bell's masterful study represents one of the best efforts yet to untangle the many ideological and political knots that bind liberalism and imperialism."--G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

"In what is a preeminent study of the social and political construction of the world, Bell goes way beyond the typical discussions by demonstrating the shifting definitions of empire and the political ramifications of conquest. In a detailed historical and political analysis of colonial interventions in human history, he meticulously ‘unpicks' the connections that lie at the heart of both imperialism and human freedom. It is indeed a brilliant amalgam of history and politics, thought-provoking and relevant at a juncture when the nation and its concept are subjects of passionate, wide-reaching debate and of profound interest to sociologists and postcolonial theorists."--Shelley Walia, Frontline

"In this collection of articles and essays, Bell achieves an impressive synthesis of liberal political thought and British ideologies of empire."--Choice

"Reordering the World collects together some of Duncan Bell’s most notable writings of the past 10 years, focusing in particular on British imperial thought in the Victorian era. . . . It is a mark of the quality of Bell’s scholarship, and the integration of his thought, that their assembly here works as well--indeed, better--than many freestanding monographs."--Paul Sagar, Political Studies Review

"Subtle, well-documented, and fine-grained, but still extraordinarily wide-ranging study of liberal imperialism in all its many shades."--Joshua Simon, The Review of Politics


"This brilliant work of scholarship is the most detailed and comprehensive history of the languages of liberal imperialism by one of the preeminent scholars in the field. It is a must-read."--James Tully, University of Victoria

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