Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt by Richard Gott

By Richard Gott


Magisterial background of the basis of the British empire, and the forgotten tale of resistance to its formation.

Contrary to nationalist legend and schoolboy background classes, the British Empire was once now not an outstanding civilizing strength bringing mild to the darker corners of the earth. Richard Gott’s magisterial paintings recounts the empire’s misdeeds from the start of the eighteenth century to the Indian Mutiny, spanning the red-patched imperial globe from eire to Australia, telling a narrative of just about non-stop colonialist violence. Recounting occasions from the point of view of the colonized, Gott reveals the all-but-forgotten tales excluded from mainstream British histories.

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The tables were turned. Milne appeared friendly enough, but the lunch invitation was a deception. Seroweh and the other chiefs were bundled inside the fort and held hostage. News of Seroweh’s rebellion had reached New York in February, and General Amherst, the British commander, ordered Colonel Archibald Montgomerie to prepare an expedition to crush it. An army of 1,200 Scottish Highlanders was assembled in New York, together with 1,000 local militiamen drawn from the settler community of South Carolina.

It was an attitude that continued to characterise international treaties into the twentieth century. Britain now had the beginnings of a large Empire to defend, to police, to administer, and to exploit. 1 To protect their possessions, the British had barely 15,000 soldiers. More troops would need more money. To recoup the costs of imperial defence, the British made plans to exploit the new colonial territories. For the West Indies, ‘a Commissioner for the Sale of Land in the Ceded Islands’ was appointed and sent out to the Caribbean to establish new plantations on the lands of the indigenous inhabitants and the Maroons.

A series of minor mutinies had undermined the structure of British military power in the region. 7 The Mughal attack on Patna was a failure; both sides now prepared for further engagement. The Muslim leaders were optimistic that they might yet defeat the British, yet when battle was joined in October, at Buxar, near Bihar, south-east of Patna, the Indians and their Afghan allies proved no match for the British troops commanded by Major Hector Munro. The defeat at Buxar was a disaster for the Indian cause.

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