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Geographies of Empire
European Empires and Colonies c.1880–1960


Part of Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography

  • Date Published: July 2009
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521740555

£ 36.99

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About the Authors
  • How did the major European imperial powers and indigenous populations experience imperialism and colonisation in the period 1880-1960? In this richly-illustrated comparative account, Robin Butlin provides a comprehensive overview of the experiences of individual European imperial powers - British, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, German and Italian – and the reactions of indigenous peoples. He explores the complex processes and discourses of colonialism, conquest and resistance from the height of empire through to decolonisation and sets these within the dynamics of the globalisation of political and economic power systems. He sheds new light on variations in the timing, nature and locations of European colonisations and on key themes such as exploration and geographical knowledge; maps and mapping; demographics; land seizure and environmental modification; transport and communications; and resistance and independence movements. In so doing, he makes a major contribution to our understanding of colonisation and the end of empire.

    • Provides fresh insights into European imperialism by addressing the topic from the perspective of historical geography
    • Reveals the enormous geographical variation in imperial and colonial experience
    • Richly illustrated with over sixty maps and historical photographs
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Professor Butlin's new book is ambitious in scope and rich in historical and geographical detail. It showcases for a wide audience historical and cultural geographies of late 19th and 20th Century imperialism and colonialism that have afforded new insights into postcolonial, gender and indigenous perspectives. With its encyclopaedic coverage of the spatial aspects of European empires and colonies and its novel approach to the historiographical basis of writing about imperialism and colonialism, the book is a welcome addition to scholarship on European High Imperialism.' Cheryl McEwan, Durham University

    'This is a big and impressive work on a big and impressive subject, placing historical geography at the very center of the study of imperialisms. It covers the fragile and broken peaks reached by European 'high imperialism,' a 'grotesque mixture of savagery and farce,' in the run-up to World War One, and its precipitate collapse thereafter. Butlin also engages with gender issues and with the peripheries as well as the centers, demonstrating how transportation and communication, the main European tools of colonization and exploitation, were also the tools of resistance and de-colonization.' Peter Hugill, Texas A&M University

    'Robin Butlin's Geographies of Empire does a great service for all those concerned with the historical geography of European empires from the advent of the new imperial age in the 1880s to the decolonisation movements of the 1960s. The reader has set before them a unique comparative examination of all Europe's imperial powers across an impressive range of geographical themes; including exploration, mapping, environment, transport, land use and urbanisation. The broad sweep of empire's geographies has never been so fully and accessibly surveyed as it is in this book.' Miles Ogborn, Queen Mary, University of London

    'Because of its breadth, this book does work as a kind of textbook which would be of particular value for undergraduate and MA courses on the history of Empire. For that readership, it offers a solid overview of the colonial period with a particular emphasis on aspects of colonialism that fall within the parameters of what might loosely be called geography. A great deal of the literature on empire is also summarised and thoughtfully presented … this is an impressively erudite and knowledgeable book.' Michael Collins, University College London

    'This is a book of breathtaking scale that seeks to explain imperialism as a global phenomenon and through carefully chosen vignettes demonstrates its character, strengths and especially weaknesses. It should be essential reading for teachers and students of the subject.' The Historian

    '… this is a seminal work …' Choice

    'Without doubt, Robin Butlin must be congratulated for having assembled a uniquely accessible comparison of Europe's imperial powers, their impact on colonial territories, and the impact of those territories on European nations.' Annales de Géographie

    'Geography's tertiary-level teachers and students will derive great value from this timely reference text.' Joseph Powell, The Australian Geographer

    'As one of the premier scholars in historical geography, Butlin has produced another remarkable contribution to the fields of both history and geography.' World History Bulletin

    'This is a work of deep learning about and an obvious familiarity with a vast literature on the historic course of European colonialism from the medieval period to the recent past. The book is clearly organized and extremely well-written. It will pay reading by all those with even the slightest interest in the historical geography of European colonialism and its continuing effects around the world into the present day. I see little possibility any day soon of a book's appearing that will challenge this one as the essential synthetic survey of its subject.' John Agnew, Journal of Historical Geography

    '… brings together the work of scholars in different fields (history, geography, anthropology) to demonstrate some of the key ideas in studying colonialism today … This volume could be used successfully as a text for a course on colonialism or decolonisation in a history or geography syllabus.' Itinerario

    '… the breadth of coverage is so wide that almost all readers will find a great deal that is new to them.' Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    'Butlin's book is a masterly synthesis of an impressive body of published writing about imperialism and how it remade the world … Order this book for your library: it is a key reference about one of the foundations of the modern world.' South African Geographical Journal

    '… this book has great value in the fields of geography, historical geography and colonial studies. Its clarity and breadth offers readers a uniquely geographic perspective to colonialism.' Canadian Geographer

    'The success of the book is strongly based on the fact that it is a summation of the lifetime work of a highly experienced scholar … It can usefully take its place on the reference shelf of all who share an interest in late 19th and 20th century imperialism.' John MacKenzie, The Round Table

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521740555
    • length: 692 pages
    • dimensions: 247 x 175 x 31 mm
    • weight: 1.36kg
    • contains: 30 b/w illus. 37 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Geography, imperialism and colonialism: concepts and frameworks
    2. Chronologies, spaces and places
    3. Numbers and movements of people
    4. Patterns and shadows on the land
    5. Empire, exploration and geographical knowledge
    6. Geographical societies and imperialism
    7. The mapping of empires and colonies
    8. Geographies of the 'Civilizing Mission'
    9. Environmental interactions
    10. The arteries of empire: transport and communications
    11. Towns and cities
    12. Economic geographies of empire and colony
    13. The endings of empire: decolonization
    14. Conclusion.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Baptist History or Christian Heritage 2
    • Colonialism and the Modern World
    • European Civilization 1800-Present
    • Historical Geography
    • The Imperial West
    • The Modern World: Imperialism and Empire
  • Author

    Robin A. Butlin
    Robin A. Butlin is Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Leeds. His previous publications include Geography and Imperialism, 1820–1940 (co-edited with M. Bell and M. Heffernan, 1995), Historical Geography: Through the Gates of Space and Time (1993), and, co-edited with R. A. Dodgshon, An Historical Geography of England and Wales (2nd edition 1990), and An Historical Geography of Europe (1998).

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