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Linda Colley writes:
Trenchant, vivid, massively researched and very well written, A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? begins in the year that saw both the formal end of what was erroneously called the ‘First British Empire’, and the fall of the Fox-North coalition over the regulation of the East India Company. It goes on to span an era in which, in Hilton’s words, ‘Britain’s military and diplomatic prestige touched a pitch it has never reached before or since,’ and in which its commercial, cultural, financial, warlike and imperial incursions into other territories were relentless and more often than not successful. So how, given these busy entanglements in momentous transnational and transcontinental happenings, as well as all the domestic complexities, is a history specifically of ‘England’ in this period to be isolated and reconstructed? And what is it for?