Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt

Ramachandra Guha writes:

Britain’s Empire contains crisp accounts of hundreds of battles, from skirmishes to full-scale wars. Slave rebellions in Jamaica, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Barbados, St Lucia; settler struggles in North America and South Africa; aboriginal revolts in Australia and New Zealand; Xhosa uprisings in the Cape; the resistance of Indian princes to the British advance – the range of cases covered in the book is staggering. Gott stresses, on the one side, the bravery and heroism of the rebels, and, on the other, the savagery of the British: the burning of homes and villages and standing crops, the looting of markets and treasuries, the beatings and lashings, the hangings and shootings of rebels, and the incarceration of dissidents in penal colonies. He presents the American War of Independence as essentially a land grab. Behind the rhetoric of republicanism and fiscal autonomy lay the desire to deal with the Native Americans without interference: George Washington is described archly as ‘the castigator of the Native Americans’.

(LRB 20 December 2012)

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