Richard Gott's new book, Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt, criticises the widely held belief that the British Empire was an imaginative and civilizing enterprise.
Gott reveals a history of systemic repression and almost perpetual violence, showing how British rule was imposed as a military operation and maintained as a military dictatorship. For colonized peoples, the experience was a horrific one, he says, of slavery, famine, battle and extermination. But, he argues, the Empire's oppressed peoples did not go quietly into this good night. Wherever Britain tried to plant its flag, it met with opposition. From Ireland to India, from the American colonies to Australia, Gott traces the rebellions and resistance of subject peoples whose all-but-forgotten stories are excluded from traditional accounts of empire. He argues that the British Empire provided a blueprint for the annihilation of peoples in twentieth-century Europe, and that its leaders must rank alongside the dictators of the twentieth century as authors of crimes against humanity on an infamous scale.