A Note on the Logic of the Volume
I intend this volume to serve less as a theoretical white paper on imperial
history than as a set of accumulated reflections on the state of British
imperial history over two decades. The collection is divided into theory
and practice, not to draw false distinctions between those two domains,
but to signal the relationship, and sometimes the tension, between dif-
ferent genres of thinking and writing. Essays in each section are arranged
in the order of original publication to give a sense of how issues in the field
developed over time. I have not altered the original essays (except for
stylistic consistency) in the hopes that what eventuates is a kind of histo-
riographical freeze frame (from my vantage point, of course). My intro-
ductory essay does not rehearse each essay but provides an overarching
autobiographical context, with an emphasis on the contingencies of my
own location(s). I think, I hope, that the final essay of the volume works as
self-critique, a call for polyphony that moves beyond the binaries I began
my career with, which have characterized a variety of imperial histories in
the last two centuries—my own included—and which remain challenging
to get beyond.
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