When I first published books I used to eagerly check all the papers for reviews of them, usually taking hours to leaf through all the likely ones in my university library. (This was before Google Search, of course.) Now I rarely bother, which is why I must have missed this one in the LRB four years ago, despite being a subscriber and indeed a contributor to that distinguished journal myself. Maybe I was in Sweden at the time? I’ve also come to reconcile myself to the fact that no-one – except a few academics – is really interested in my stuff; which is OK because I mainly write to please myself. (You might call it literary masturbation.) Of course I’d like to influence others, but have now given up on that. The book reviewed here was my final effort to spread my ideas about British imperialism in a more ‘popular’ way to a wider audience, but so far as I can tell it failed in that. At any rate it never went into paperback.
So I was surprised suddenly, while crouched over my computer this morning, to hit on Ferdinand Mount’s rather good four-year old piece on British Imperial: What the Empire Wasn’t; ‘good’ because he’s clearly read and understood the book, which not all reviewers do. (Incidentally: isn’t Mount a Tory?)
Here it is: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v38/n07/ferdinand-mount/lumpers-v.-splitters. I also quite like being described there as ‘both pugnacious and good-humoured’. Perhaps they could put that on my gravestone? (Until now I’d favoured ‘He Made a Mean Mashed Potato’.)
Not that I’ll have a gravestone. I’ve asked Kajsa and the kids to have me cremated and my ashes scattered in the park by St Albans Abbey. The funeral, if there is one, will start with this: before coming on to the Elgar, of course. Black humour at its African-American best.
But I’ve wandered off the topic.
In retrospect, March 2016 was an idyllic month: no Trump, no Brexit, and no Covid-19.
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I agree. It is a very good article. I am sympathetic to his view that the Imperial state, and the state understood more generically, is historically more significant than capitalism; the latter requiring the former to hold it together. Your view that empire, imperialism and colonialism are not all cut from the same cloth might be paralleled – though to a lesser extent – by the case of capitalism, which is also a heterogeneous phenomenon.
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