Edge of Empire: Conquest and Collecting in the East, 1750-1850
A Palladian mansion filled with Western art in the center of old Calcutta, the Mughal emperor’s letters in an archive in the French Alps, the names of Italian adventurers scratched into the walls of Egyptian temples. In this imaginative book, Maya Jasanoff delves into the stories behind vestiges such as these to uncover the lives of people, collectors in India and Egypt, who lived on the frontiers of the British Empire during a pivotal century of its formation. From household names like Clive of India and Napoleon Bonaparte to little-known figures such as the circus strongman Giambattista Belzoni or the Swiss mercenary Antoine Polier, Edge of Empire traces the exploits of collectors to tell an intimate history of imperialism. Jasanoff delves beneath the grand narratives of power, exploitation, and resistance to look at the British Empire through the eyes of the people caught up in it. What does empire look like from the inside out?
Written and researched on four continents, Edge of Empire makes an original and significant contribution to international history. Jasanoff offers a fresh account of European imperialism that challenges received wisdom about how imperial power was asserted in Asia and the Middle East. She shows us that Britain’s expansion involved more than the mere imposition of an “imperial project” over foreign subjects, and that the stereotypical “white man’s burden” ideology emerged only after long years of cross-cultural encounters. Edge of Empire enters a world where people lived, loved, mingled, and identified with one another in ways richer and more complex than previous accounts have led us to believe were possible. And as this book demonstrates, traces of that world remain tangible–and topical–today.
An innovative, persuasive, and provocative work of history.
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Edge of Empire : Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850User Review - Book Verdict
In the Anglo-French rivalry for empire between 1750 and 1850, India and Egypt were the key prizes. Jasanoff (British history, Univ. of Virginia) shows how this rivalry revealed itself in the competition to grab antiquities from these countries. After establishing Robert Clive (in military service for the British East India Company and later governor of Bengal) as the key British imperialist figure, Jasanoff uses his gaining wealth, art, magnificent houses, and control of seats in Parliament to frame her study of acquisition as empire. Similarly, she examines the predilection of Frenchmen Antoine Polier, Benoit de Boigne, and Claude Martin for Sanskrit manuscripts and other antiquities, taken by them from the Indian city of Lucknow. Jasanoff identifies two chief points of collision--the 1799 British capture of the Muslim island fortress of Seringapatam in Mysore, India, and the 1801 French invasion of Egypt by Napoleon--which led to a sense of imperial validation and new European attitudes regarding the Orient. In graceful prose and with evocative illustrations, Jasanoff scores her points about conquest, collecting, and cultural crossing, offering a thoughtful and highly subtle study. This is her first book, and it's a very good one for all academic and research libraries.--John F. Riddick, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant
A World of Empires an Empire of the World
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