Imperial Island

Imperial Island

A History of Empire in Modern Britain


Imperial Island shows how empire and its ever-present aftermath have divided and defined Britain over the last seventy years.

'An eye-opening study of the empire within' SHASHI THAROOR
'Clear, bold, refreshing' LUCY WORSLEY

After the Second World War, Britain's overseas empire disintegrated. But the effects of empire lived on, shaping its population and politics and dominating its relationship with the world ever since. Drawing on a mass of new research, from personal letters to pop culture, Imperial Island tells this dramatic story of imperial demise and its potent legacy, from the Suez Crisis to the Falklands War, from the invasion of Iraq to Brexit. It is a story of immigration and social unrest, multiculturalism and extremism, and a nation continuously wrestling with its past.

'Incisive, important and incredibly timely . . . for anyone wanting to understand how Britain became the nation it is today ' CAROLINE ELKINS

'Marvellous . . . A thought-provoking delight that absolutely everyone should read' STEPHEN BUSH

'Absorbing . . . dexterously handled and carefully sourced’ Financial Times

‘Masterful, ingeniously written. You won't look at Britain in the same way ever again’ OWEN JONES


  • Riley’s absorbing new book … [is] a history of modern multicultural Britain and the myriad ways in which it has been shaped by empire and imperialism … Riley’s skills as a social historian are demonstrated to best effect in her use of personal testimonies, oral histories and popular culture sources to bring to life the everyday experiences of new migrants … The book is particularly rich on civil society campaigns against racism, and at documenting the political role played by the anti-war left in modern Britain … dexterously handled and carefully sourced
    Financial Times

About the author

Charlotte Lydia Riley

Charlotte Lydia Riley is a historian of twentieth-century Britain at the University of Southampton, specialising in questions about empire, politics, culture and identity. She is editor of The Free Speech Wars and author of Imperial Island: A History of Empire in Modern Britain. Her writing has appeared in a wide range of publications including the Guardian, New Statesman, Financial Times, Washington Post and History Today. She tweets @lottelydia.
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