Hobson and Imperialism: Radicalism, New Liberalism, and Finance 1887-1938

Hobson and Imperialism: Radicalism, New Liberalism, and Finance 1887-1938

Hobson and Imperialism: Radicalism, New Liberalism, and Finance 1887-1938

Hobson and Imperialism: Radicalism, New Liberalism, and Finance 1887-1938

Synopsis

The year 2002 sees the centenary of J. A. Hobson's Imperialism: A Study, the most influential critique of British imperial expansion ever written. Peter Cain marks the occasion by evaluating, for the first time, Hobson's writings on imperialism from his days as a journalist in London to his death in 1940. The early chapters chart Hobson's progress from complacent imperialist in the 1880s to radical critic of empire by 1898. This is followed by an account of the origins of Imperialism and a close analysis of the text in the context of contemporary debates. Two chapters cover Hobson's later writings, showing their richness and variety, and analysing his decision to republish Imperialism in 1938. The author discusses the reception of Imperialism and its emergence as a 'classic' by the late 1930s and ends with a detailed discussion of the relevance of the arguments of Imperialism to present-day historians.

Excerpt

My first serious encounter with Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study took place while sitting on a bench waiting for a bus in Birmingham in September 1972. I have been reading him ever since so this book is very obviously overdue. Work on Hobson has frequently been put aside for tasks that, at the time at any rate, seemed more important or more necessary. About ten years ago I decided to seize the day and, with Tony Morris’s encouragement and some kind reviews of my proposals, I signed a contract to produce the book by 1995. It was then delayed by the feeling that I was not up to the task, that my intellectual stance was becoming increasingly old-fashioned and my interpretation redundant. However, a bulging filing cabinet has been a constant reminder of work unfinished. More recently, my sixtieth birthday has brought home to me that time is not so much passing as accelerating and that I may soon not have the luxury of choosing whether I will or nay. A late flowering of egoism has also played its part: I have now convinced myself that the world would be a better place if my notes were translated into a finished book. Finally, the approach of the hundredth anniversary of the first edition of Imperialism not only gave me a passable excuse to publish but also shamed me into finally settling my account with a writer to whom I have been heavily indebted for many years. Even so, the manuscript would not have been complete by now had it not been for the generosity of the Arts and Humanities Research Board whose support in 2001 gave me the chance to get the key chapters of the present volume written.

This is my first single-authored book and, since it could prove my last, I think it important to take the opportunity to thank my parents for their unflagging support for my youthful academic aspirations. I also remember with gratitude my teachers of economics and history in the sixth form at Thornleigh College, Bolton, who first kindled my interest in the movement of ideas. A book so long in the making and one that has changed its shape in the author’s head on a number of occasions is the product of many influences. My first head of department at Birmingham, Harry Court, helped enormously by boosting my fragile self-confidence and by encouraging . . .

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