The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources

By Robin W. Winks | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Robin W. Winks

IN NEARLY ALL FIELDS historians are engaged in an international stock-taking, in pondering how well they have done and after deciding (as historians will) that they have not done nearly well enough, in suggesting how they might do better. Nations newly born are striving to find a national identity through searching the past. Societies not yet nations are using the anvil of their history to beat out their claims to a separate identity. Old and powerful nations alike, with traditions already rich in historical knowledge, are experiencing everywhere an age of re-evaluation. As each field of study is re- examined, its limits spacial and chronological are questioned; periodization, principles of organization, and time-honored generalizations hidden in the shorthand communication of words (gentry, feudal, Puritan, empire, helot, frontier) are attacked. Once historians would have echoed the initial certainty of the speaker in Eliot "Ash Wednesday,""I know that time is always time/And place is always and only place/And what is actual is actual only for one time/And only for one place." Now, less sure of their tools and of their value judgments, many would lament (again with Eliot) the loss of the "glory of the positive hour."

Several historians recently have taken long and sometimes hard looks at British history and historiography,1 convinced that now is a suitable time, before the mountain of publications grows even higher, to assess what has been done and, by the assessing, perhaps to have some small influence on what may be done in the future. Science, as we know, has grown at an exponential rate, and history cannot be far behind. The number of scientists alive today exceeds the total number of

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1
Many articles and Festschriften have appeared recently in England. In the United States the Conference on British Studies has sponsored several bibliographical and historiographical articles. Those in print are listed in the American Historical Review (Washington), LXVIII ( July, 1963), 987, n. 1, and will be published as a book in 1966 by Harvard University Press, Elizabeth Chapin Furber, ed.

-3-

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The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors ix
  • Introduction 3
  • The American Continental Colonies in the Empire 23
  • The Empire Since 1783 46
  • Canada 69
  • Australia 137
  • New Zealand 174
  • The British Territories in the Pacific 197
  • South Africa 212
  • British Central Africa 237
  • British East Africa 248
  • British West Africa 261
  • Egypt and the Sudan 279
  • Great Britain and Inter­national Trusteeship: the Mandate System 296
  • Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus 312
  • Ireland's Commonwealth Years, 1922-1949 326
  • The British West Indies 344
  • India 357
  • Pakistan 396
  • Ceylon 421
  • Burma 448
  • Malaysia 460
  • Commonwealth Literature: Developments and Prospects 493
  • Appendix: An American Report 523
  • Index 529
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