During the tumultuous closing decades of the nineteenth century, as the prospect of democracy loomed and as intensified global economic and strategic competition reshaped the political imagination, British thinkers grappled with the question of how best to organize the empire. Many found an answer to the anxieties of the age in the idea of Greater Britain, a union of the United Kingdom and its settler colonies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and southern Africa. In The Idea of Greater Britain, Duncan Bell analyzes this fertile yet neglected debate, examining how a wide range of thinkers conceived of this vast "Anglo-Saxon" political community. Their proposals ranged from the fantastically ambitious--creating a globe-spanning nation-state--to the practical and mundane--reinforcing existing ties between the colonies and Britain. But all of these ideas were motivated by the disquiet generated by democracy, by challenges to British global supremacy, and by new possibilities for global cooperation and communication that anticipated today's globalization debates. Exploring attitudes toward the state, race, space, nationality, and empire, as well as highlighting the vital theoretical functions played by visions of Greece, Rome, and the United States, Bell illuminates important aspects of late-Victorian political thought and intellectual life.
Duncan Bell is a university lecturer in international relations at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Christ's College. He is the editor of Memory, Trauma, and World Politics and Victorian Visions of Global Order.
"[A] highly intelligent and persuasive book. . . . Bell has written what seems likely to be one of the field's definitive works."--Eliga H. Gould, International History Review
"It is difficult to enumerate the qualities of this wonderful account of late Victorian political thought on state, Empire and much besides. Duncan Bell has given us a fresh and invigorating look at the political debate in the late 19th-century British Empire, but he has also given us plenty of food for thought about our own times. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this book is the way that it strikes contemporary notes, without ever being a-historical in its content or approach."--Andrew Williams, Round Table
"The Idea of Greater Britain is full of penetrating insights for those seeking to understand the nuances of Victorian notions of British Empire and how these quests relate to the future of world order."--Shih-Yu Chou, Political Studies Review
"In a work of great subtlety and nuance he provides a fresh perspective on an important but neglected debate. In doing so he contributes signi?cantly not only to British imperial and domestic history but also to a deeper understanding of British political thinking in the late nineteenth century. It will be difficult in the future for historians of British political thought to ignore the imperial dimension."--John Kendle, American Historical Review
"Bell's book, as a serious investigation of how...language was developed in the Victorian era, is a quietly powerful corrective."--Stephen Howe, Independent
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