Skip to content

Your Cart


You have 0 items in your cart.

Register Sign in Wishlist

Understanding the British Empire


  • Date Published: May 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521132909

£ 30.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Understanding the British Empire draws on a lifetime's research and reflection on the history of the British Empire by one of the senior figures in the field. Essays cover six key themes: the geopolitical and economic dynamics of empire, religion and ethics, imperial bureaucracy, the contribution of political leaders, the significance of sexuality, and the shaping of imperial historiography. A major new introductory chapter draws together the wider framework of Dr Hyam's studies and several new chapters focus on lesser known figures. Other chapters are revised versions of earlier papers, reflecting some of the debates and controversies raised by the author's work, including the issue of sexual exploitation, the European intrusion into Africa, including the African response to missionaries, trusteeship, and Winston Churchill's imperial attitudes. Combining traditional archival research with newer forms of cultural exploration, this is an unusually wide-ranging approach to key aspects of empire.

    • Contains a variety of approaches, traditional and post-colonial, enabling the reader to get a balanced view of how the empire is written about and assessed
    • Wide-ranging coverage of key themes essential to understanding the complexities of the British Empire
    • Will appeal to scholars and students of British and imperial history
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'In this beautifully crafted collection, Hyam bids a fond farewell to a subject that has sustained an extraordinary and unique life's work. He deserves an equally fond commendation.' Joanna Lewis, The Times Higher Education Supplement

    'Deeply informed and bristling with ideas.' History Today

    'Hyam has written a diverse and distinguished book that presents the reader with a depth of understanding second to none. That he has done this with an almost quirky professionalism is testament not only to his skill as a writer but indeed his unquestionable knowledge of empire.' History Teaching Review

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521132909
    • length: 576 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 30 mm
    • weight: 0.76kg
    • contains: 24 b/w illus. 7 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: perspectives, policies, and people
    Part I. Dynamics: Geopolitics and Economics:
    1. The primacy of geopolitics: the dynamics of British imperial policy, 1763–1963
    2. The partition of Africa: geopolitical and internal perspectives
    3. The empire in a comparative global context, 1815–1914
    4. The myth of 'gentlemanly capitalism'
    Part II. Ethics and Religion:
    5. Peter Peckard, 'universal benevolence', and the abolition of the slave trade
    6. The view from below: the African response to missionaries
    Part III. Bureaucracy and Policy-making:
    7. Bureaucracy and trusteeship in the colonial empire
    8. Africa and the Labour government, 1945–51
    9. John Bennett and the end of empire
    Part IV. Great Men:
    10. Winston Churchill's first years in ministerial office, 1905–11
    11. Churchill and the colonial empire
    12. Smuts in context: Britain and South Africa
    Part V. Sexuality:
    13. Empire and sexual opportunity
    14. Penis envy and 'penile othering' in the colonies and America
    15. Concubinage and the Colonial Service: Silberrad and the Crewe Circular (1909)
    16. Greek love in British India: Captain Searight's manuscript
    Part VI. Imperial Historians:
    17. Imperial and Commonwealth history at Cambridge, 1881–1981: founding fathers and pioneer research students
    18. The Oxford and Cambridge imperial history professoriate, 1919–81: Robinson and Gallagher and their predecessors
    Published writings of Ronald Hyam on imperial history.

  • Author

    Ronald Hyam, University of Cambridge
    Ronald Hyam is Emeritus Reader in British Imperial History at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow and former President of Magdalene College. He is the author of several books on the British Empire, including most recently Britain's Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation 1918–1968 and, with Peter Henshaw, The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War (2003).

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.