• Legacy of Violence

  • A History of the British Empire
  • By: Caroline Elkins
  • Narrated by: Adam Barr
  • Length: 31 hrs and 36 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (69 ratings)

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Legacy of Violence

By: Caroline Elkins
Narrated by: Adam Barr
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Publisher's Summary

From Pulitzer Prize–winning historian: a searing study of the British Empire that probes the country's pervasive use of violence throughout the twentieth century and traces how these practices were exported, modified, and institutionalized in colonies around the globe

Sprawling across a quarter of the world's land mass and claiming nearly seven hundred million people, Britain's twentieth-century empire was the largest empire in human history. For many Britons, it epitomized their nation's cultural superiority, but what legacy did the island nation deliver to the world? Covering more than two hundred years of history, Caroline Elkins reveals an evolutionary and racialized doctrine that espoused an unrelenting deployment of violence to secure and preserve the nation's imperial interests. She outlines how ideological foundations of violence were rooted in the Victorian era calls for punishing recalcitrant "natives," and how over time, its forms became increasingly systematized. And she makes clear that when Britain could no longer maintain control over the violence it provoked and enacted, it retreated from empire, destroying and hiding incriminating evidence of its policies and practices.

Drawing on more than a decade of research on four continents, Legacy of Violence implicates all sides of Britain's political divide in the creation, execution, and cover-up of imperial violence. By demonstrating how and why violence was the most salient factor underwriting Britain's empire and the nation's imperial identity at home, Elkins upends long-held myths and sheds new light on empire's role in shaping the world today.

©2022 Caroline Elkins (P)2022 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize

“Sweeping and detailed . . . With its enormous breadth and ambition, [Legacy of Violence] amounts to something approaching a one-volume history of imperial Britain’s use of force, torture, and deceit around the world. . . . Assembling so many examples spread widely across space and time allows Elkins to build an impressively damning account of the British Empire.”—Howard W. French, The Nation

“A scathing indictment . . . [A] tour de force of historical excavation . . . Offering numerous correctives to Whitewashed history, the author mounts potent attacks against the egregious actions of vaunted figures. . . . [Legacy of Violence is] top-shelf history offering tremendous acknowledgement of past systemic abuses.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Elkins’] detailed description of British policy and actions in Ireland, India, Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, Nyasaland, Jamaica, and Palestine makes for unsettling, yet necessary reading. . . . Thoroughly researched and presented in scrupulous detail, this tale of 'legalized violence,' founded on a racism not even thinly disguised, is a must-read for serious students of history.”—David Keymer, Library Journal (starred review)

What listeners say about Legacy of Violence

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Great ideas, but very disappointing execution

While I found the premises of the book appealing and the link between liberalism and violence quite eye opening, the execution of the book is really disappointing. It is very repetitive and, surprisingly, history is sort of missing in action. We learn very little about the history of the colonies, just the little bits necessary for the author’s thesis to be reaffirmed, again and again. I really want to like this book but I ultimately could not.

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At last! A factual account of the real British history

An excellent and wonderfully detailed counterweight to the numerous books written by apologists for the utterly despicable and shameful imperial past actions of the British Empire, especially at a time when it’s still-burning embers seem to be re-igniting in certain parts of the U.K.‘s political and social consciousness.

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Great and authentic!

I’m half way through this book and I just needed to say how I’m glad I found it. Great insights into the real atrocities that occurred. I appreciate the transparency and well research events. I’m not even finished but I know I’m going to be listening a second time!

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Informative, ingaging, well delivered, a must read

Excellent narrator. Will read again. Highly recommend. Excellent book. An eye opener. Very involving.

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Solid but repetitive

The research and construction is great, but I find that in the attempt to move back and forth in the timeline to tell the various stories of the empire, the author too often repeated elements, not trusting the reader to remember. Still, worth l listening to.

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An Essential Read

An excellent review of the historical foundations of our (the Western World's) current institutions: political, legal, and cultural--our comfort in the camouflage of "The Rule of Law." The relentless focus on the gruesome foundations of Colonialism clarifies our acceptance of western exceptionalism vis a vis the rest of the world. It is hard to read but ultimately cleansing as you reflect on our path ahead.

Thoroughly researched and referenced.