Legacy of Violence

Legacy of Violence

A History of the British Empire

Summary

'This book is dynamite' - ROBERT GILDEA, author of Empires of the Mind

A searing, landmark study of the British Empire that lays bare its pervasive use of violence throughout the twentieth century.

Sprawling across a quarter of the world's land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain's empire was the largest in human history. For many, it epitomized the nation's cultural superiority, but what legacy have we delivered to the world?

Spanning more than two hundred years of history, Caroline Elkins reveals an evolutionary and racialized doctrine that espoused an unrelenting deployment of violence to secure and preserve British imperial interests. She outlines how ideological foundations of violence were rooted in Victorian calls for punishing indigenous peoples who resisted subjugation, and how over time this treatment became increasingly systematised. And she makes clear that when Britain could no longer maintain control over the violence it provoked and enacted, Britain retreated from its empire, destroying and hiding incriminating evidence of its policies and practices.

Drawing on more than a decade of research on four continents, Legacy of Violence implicates all sides of the political divide regarding the creation, execution, and cover-up of imperial violence. By demonstrating how and why violence was the most salient factor underwriting both the empire and British imperial identity, Elkins explodes long-held myths and sheds a disturbing new light on empire's role in shaping the world today.

Reviews

  • Masterful, crucial ... as unflinching as it is gripping, as carefully researched as it is urgently necessary
    Jill Lepore, author of These Truths

About the author

Caroline Elkins

Caroline Elkins is a professor of history and of African and African American studies at Harvard University and the founding director of Harvard's Centre for African Studies. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship.

Her first book, Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Her research for that book was the subject of the award-winning BBC documentary Kenya: White Terror. She also served as an expert in the historic Mau Mau reparations case, brought against the British Government by survivors of violence in Kenya.

She is a contributor to the New York Times Book Review, Guardian, Atlantic, Washington Post and New Republic. She lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more