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Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism


Palgrave Macmillan
1981
ISBN: 0333310063
Pages:
Format: Softcover
Quantity in stock: 1

Condition: VG+ (Very Good plus)

Price: $24.00 (inc GST)

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Many readers of Africa and the Victorians have tended to view the book as little more than a textbook-like chronology of the British scramble for Africa. But the true significance of the book is to expand the highly influential theory of British expansion that the authors originally articulated in "The Imperialism of Free Trade," an article which first appeared in the Economic History Review in 1953.

The main argument of the book holds that British expansion in Africa occurred when crises on the periphery led the British government to intervene in defense of Britain's economic and strategic interests. Robinson and Gallagher argue that official thinking during the period of expansion after 1870 represents an essential continuity with the earlier mid-Victorian era, which was characterized by a belief in the benefits of free trade, and by a conviction that British informal influence would secure these economic benefits at the lowest possible cost for the British government. British leaders throughout the nineteenth century thus held the conviction that the government was responsible to intervene in imperial matters only when it was necessary to safeguard the empire of free trade.

Expansion in Africa therefore presents a paradox: it remained the continent of least importance to British trade. For Robinson and Gallagher, the answer lies in the prominence accorded to India by British ministers, who rightfully recognized the subcontinent as the linchpin of the Empire. India attracted one-fifth of British trade and overseas investment. It provided for a self-financing Army. It held the key to power in the East. Second edition. pp. xxvi, 51 + foldout map #201215

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