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  • ZOË LAIDLAW (a1)

Historians of the British empire recast their understanding of relations between the metropole and its peripheries in the late twentieth century, notably through the work of the ‘British world’ network and the ‘new imperial historians’. The former emphasized the material, emotional, and financial links between British colonizers across the imperial diaspora; the latter focused on the empire's impact on Britain, particularly in terms of ‘everyday’ experience. This article critically reviews recent interventions, which extend and challenge these approaches by seeking new ways to juxtapose the macro with the micro, and balance the exceptional with the quotidian; by adopting a more transnational (or global) approach to colonialism; and by rethinking the categories of ‘settler’ and ‘colonizer’. Collectively, these works question the traditional frameworks within which both colonialism and the British empire have been understood. In conclusion, the article considers their impact on the vibrant field of Britain's colonial legal history.

Corresponding author
Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham TW20
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The author wishes to thank the editors and anonymous referees of this journal, Alan Lester and Catherine Hall, as well as participants in the ‘New imperial histories’ seminar at Royal Holloway, University of London, for their comments on this article.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Simon Potter , News and the British world: the emergence of a British press system, 1876–1922 (Oxford, 2003)

Antoinette Burton , Empire in question: reading, writing, and teaching British imperialism (Durham, NC, 2011)

Dane Kennedy , ‘Imperial history and postcolonial theory’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 24 (1996), pp. 345–63

Frederick Cooper , ‘Race, ideology, and the perils of comparative history’, American Historical Review, 101 (1996), p. 1135

Donna Gabaccia , ‘A long Atlantic in a wider world’, Atlantic Studies, 1 (2004), pp. 127

Tony Ballantyne , Orientalism and race: Aryanism in the British empire (Basingstoke, 2002)

Alan Lester , ‘Imperial circuits and networks: geographies of the British empire’, History Compass, 4 (2006), pp. 124–41

Patrick Wolfe , ‘Land, labour, and difference: elementary structures of race’, American Historical Review, 106 (2001), pp. 866905

Marjory Harper and Stephen Constantine , Migration and empire (Oxford, 2010)

Paul McHugh , Aboriginal societies and the common law: a history of sovereignty, status and self-determination (Oxford, 2004)

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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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