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

By Robin W. Winks | Go to book overview

APPENDIX: AN AMERICAN
REPORT

IN THE UNITED STATES the field of British Empire-Commonwealth history is growing rapidly but this growth is not immediately apparent. Indeed, one finds scholars who refer to "the decline" of Imperial history, and their view is given misleading support by the fact that several major universities have failed to replace, at least in traditional ways, major scholars in the field upon their retirements. Since one motive for editing the present volume lay in the hope that an historiographical assessment might correct an impression of decline where it is illusory and help allay the decline where it is real, a brief summary of the changing nature of British Empire-Commonwealth scholarship in this country should prove useful.

As university catalogues and syllabi from courses offered in the field through the early 1950's indicate, British Empire-Commonwealth history as taught in the United States has shown three marked tendencies. Imperial studies were chiefly administrative, constitutional, and geographical, with the history of exploration and of war playing slightly smaller rôles. Courses were constructed along Whiggish lines, the history of each then-member of the Commonwealth being traced chronologically from settlement to independence, in succession, usually beginning with Canada and ending with India, creating the impression that the chief significance of such studies lay in the progressive, basically similar, and generally natural paths to independent status taken by each nation. There was a noticeable lack of comparison with other Imperial structures or of regard for the effect of imperialism on the indigenous peoples of the areas acquired. Narrative rather than analysis dominated. People (and their administrations) rather than problems were studied or memorized.

This type of course has so fallen into decline as virtually to be extinct. The growth of analytical, locally based studies, has broken the once broadly based field into regional units. Increased specialization in graduate schools has meant that few younger scholars today are

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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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