Empire: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Aug 22, 2002 - Political Science - 160 pages
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A great deal of the world's history is the history of empires. Indeed it could be said that all history is colonial history, if one takes a broad enough definition and goes far enough back. And although the great historic imperial systems, the land-based Russian one as well as the seaborne empires of western European powers, have collapsed during the past half century, their legacies shape almost every aspect of life on a global scale. Meanwhile there is fierce argument, and much speculation, about what has replaced the old territorial empires in world politics. Do the United States and its allies, transnational companies, financial and media institutions, or more broadly the forces of 'globalization', constitute a new imperial system? Stephen Howe interprets the meaning of the idea of 'empire' through the ages, disentangling the multiple uses and abuses of the labels 'empire', 'colonialism', etc., and examines the aftermath of imperialism on the contemporary world. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Stephen Howe begins his very short introduction to 'Empire' by first attempting to separate terminology. He points out an almost useless difference between terms such as 'empire,''imperial globalization,' 'colonization,' & 'colonialism.' It might just be me, but I don't need two whole chapters to explain to me at length that which is easily obtainable from any modern dictionary. Howe then proceeds to argue that empires have always, even in fictional form, held the same characteristics and fundamental values. While he argues well on small anecdotal facts of certain empires and draws parallels based on these points of trivia, his overall argument that Empires are relatively identical is a much too elementary stance when discussing such a large and complex matter of human history.
Howe does have a great talent for cramming large amounts of information into a very short piece, and his attempt at an introduction to "Empire" does contain some valid and interesting facts. Overall, however, Howe is forced to introduce and conclude his arguments without a very well developed body. This is probably because this book is so small and the topics Howe speaks upon are so massive, he is forced to hammer the relatively inane and unimportant details in a photo-finish style attempt at his argument. 130 pages is simply not enough to introduce 'Empire' in its whole concept. I think maybe Oxford should have invested a bit more heavily into creating a larger contextual case study-based examination of 'Empire' instead of pumping out another of their adorable little "Short Intro to" series. Of that entire set, this is by far the poorest.
 

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About the author (2002)


Stephen Howe is Tutor in Politics at Ruskin College, Oxford. He is the author of numerous books and articles, and regularly contributes to the New Statesman and Independent.

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