It is just as well that Professor Caroline Elkins, at the start of this hefty book, uses the indefinite article when she writes that she is presenting her readers with “a history” of the British Empire. Such a phrase might drop a hint to someone browsing in a bookshop that whatever he or she is about to receive it will not be either thorough or objective: it cannot aspire to be “the history.” And indeed it is not. Every crime and outrage committed by the British, or their agents, around the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when their nation had an empire, appears to have been catalogued in these pages, though Elkins is inexplicably light on some of the atrocities committed by early white settlers in Australia against Aborigines. Any good the empire might have achieved—and even a beleaguered Kenyan dissident is quoted later on in the book as admitting that the British did...


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