Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire

TitleOrnamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsCannadine, David
Number of Pages263
PublisherOxford University Press

In this volume, the author looks at the British Empire from a new perspective -- through the eyes of those who created and ruled it -- and offers fresh insight into the driving forces behind the Empire. Arguing against the views of Edward Said and others, the author suggests that the British were guided not so much by race as by class. The British wanted to domesticate the exotic world of their colonies and to reorder the societies they ruled according to an idealized image of their own class hierarchies. In reestablishing the connections between British society and colonial society, the author argues that imperialists loathed Indians and Africans no more nor less than they loathed the great majority of Englishmen, and were far more willing to work with maharajahs, kings, and chiefs of whatever race than with "sordid" white settlers. Revolted by the triumph of democracy in Britain itself, the Empire's rulers embraced a feudal vision of the colonies which successfully endured until the 1950s.

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