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The Absent-Minded ImperialistsEmpire, Society, and Culture in Britain$
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Bernard Porter

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299591

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299591.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 February 2021

Empire and Society

Empire and Society

(p.1) 1 Empire and Society
The Absent-Minded Imperialists

Bernard Porter

Oxford University Press

There can be no presumption that Britain was an essentially ‘imperialist’ nation in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course she was, in the sense of acquiring and ruling an empire; but that empire might not have been as burdensome as it appeared. In any case, ‘British society’ is a highly questionable concept, which obscures the country's enormous social, political, and cultural heterogeneity during most of this period, and the fact that different sectors of it could have reacted in entirely different ways, according to their own situations and interests. Of course, imperialism can be regarded as ubiquitous, if it is defined broadly and loosely; but the more broadly and loosely it is defined, the less useful it becomes as a descriptive and analytical tool. This is the argument of this chapter. Defined usefully, imperialism did not have to impact greatly on British society and culture.

Keywords:   Britain, empire, society, imperialism, culture

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