• 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 (103 ratings)

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Legacy of Violence

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

The Baillie Gifford Prize, Short-listed, 2022

From a 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

Winner of the 2024 NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize
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

“In this sweeping, ambitious chronicle, [Elkins] extends her commanding investigative and interpretive powers around the globe to include India, South Africa and Palestine. Elkins convincingly makes the case that the British Empire, with its principles cloaked in uplifting paternalism, was built on violence.”—The National Book Review

“Elkins’s intricate but immersive account is a feat of scholarship that elucidates the bureaucratic and legal machinery of oppression, dissects the intellectual justifications for it, and explores in gripping, sometimes grisly detail the suffering that resulted. The result is a forceful challenge to recent historiographical and political defenses of British exceptionalism that punctures myths of paternalism and progress.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)