The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History

By Emma Rothschild | Go to book overview
Save to active project


The history of the Johnstones is an eventful story, full of lawsuits and loss and distraction. The Johnstones were unusually enterprising, and there were unusually many of them. But they lived in interesting times, and their history can provide a vista—the view of a particular extended family—of large and important historical changes. They were surrounded by the institution of slavery and by individual slaves; their successes were the outcome of economic information, which was also information about private relationships; their empire was a family enterprise, of which the consequences or multiplier effects extended far into the interior of Scotland; and it was an empire of intimate exchanges. Their history is a view of future possibilities that were lost, in the founding epoch of modern empires, and in particular of the unlikely possibility of an empire of individual (or family) enterprise: of laissezfaire when it was new.

The Johnstones and their slaves and servants lived in the origins and end of empires, and in the ruins of other possible outcomes. To be observers of the beginning of new times was to observe the old times that were coming to an end, and the other futures, likely or unlikely, that were anticipated in hope or fear. It is difficult, now, to forget the asymmetry of historical knowledge with respect to time: that historians know, as the individuals in the past into whose lives they seek to enter, did not know, how events turned out, or how the story ended. It


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 483

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?