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P. J. MARSHALL. The Making and Unmaking of Empires: Britain, India, and America c. 1750–1783. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. Pp. vi, 398. $55.00. Lord Charles Cornwallis was defeated in America in 1781 but he was victorious in India in 1792, statesmanlike in Ireland in 1800, and a peacemaker with France in 1802. Once again governor-general, he died in India in 1805. The geography and chronology of Cornwallis’s imperial career make both of P. J. Marshall’s points. One: the American Revolution did not divide a “ﬁrst” British empire from a “second,” as Vincent T. Harlow famously contended. Rather, Marshall tells us, the growth of British authoritarianism, nationalism, and racism, that is, imperialism, during and because of the Seven Years’ War, actually enlisted in the cause of empire Irish, Bengali, West Indian, and Canadian elites. Because they were embattled with alien majorities, most of the imperial elites pledged allegiance to the British monarchy and submitted to the Westminister Parliament after 1763. They continued to do so for generations to come. For most of the empire, the American Revolution was but another episode in the second hundred years’ war with France, not a constitutional divide. Two: successful American resistance to military government and parliamentary pretensions coincided with an equally successful extension of British rule in India by force and under parliamentary supervision. Marshall’s combining and contrasting Indian and American experience of the British Empire destroys the hegemony of the American Revolution in imperial historiography. Simply put, the Tea Act of 1773, which had such dire consequences in Anglo-American relations, was an unintended consequence of Parliament’s supervision and support of the Indian segment of the British Empire. To weigh India equally with America in the balance of British empire, Marshall brings to bear his forty years of scholarship on the British conquest of India as the consequence of Indian domestic and dynastic conﬂict, Anglo-Indian commercial relations, and Britain’s worldwide imperial war with France from 1754 to 1763. Marshall’s life work was epitomized by his edition of and contributions to the eighteenth-century volume of The Oxford History of the British Empire (1998). Here appeared the essays on Britain in Asia and in North America during the eighteenth century that are expanded in the present text. The Oxford History also collectively codiﬁed a scholarly consensus about the political dynamics of eighteenth-century empire: the predominance of the ﬁscal-military state; an expansive commerce and a professional military as the metropolitan agencies of empire; the cooperation of provincial elites with the imperial metropolis in ﬁnance and administration; a cooperation secured by negotiations that produced a shared standard of political legitimacy. It was Marshall’s particular contribution to insist upon the commonality of these imperial processes across the entirety of the British Empire, not just in the Atlantic
world but also in Asia and even in the Paciﬁc. These consensuses and that contribution are the foundations of the present work. As a companion to the Oxford History, this book echoes its encyclopedic scope as well as its now-orthodox interpretation of imperial processes and their alteration during and because of “the Great War for the Empire.” The book also incorporates Marshall’s recent, incisive, manuscript research. Marshall opens with a discussion of British expansion, primarily commercial and cultural, and migration, both slave and free. The author insists that this expansion was distinct from the empire, which was primarily political and military. It was empire that was transformed by the 1754 –1763 war. Both in India and North America, military victory converted commercial connection into territorial empire and changed negotiated polities into authoritarian governments. For India, “a despotic administration supported by a standing army” (p. 228) was imposed by Parliament’s Regulating Act of 1773. As John Dickinson put it, “we are not Sea Poys or Marattas, but British subjects who are born to liberty, who know its worth, and who prize it high” (p. 271). Dickinson’s declaration demonstrated American apprehension of Indian developments. So it forecast “the unmaking of the British empire in North America . . . the achievement of the elites in the thirteen colonies.” They resented the replacement of “transatlantic negotiation” by “dictation from Whitehall, usually in the form of acts of a would-be sovereign parliament” (p. 284). What failed in America succeeded in India. So a ﬁnal chapter, on the world war of 1775–1783, features the integration of India into the empire. It concludes “that the making of empire in India and the unmaking of empire in America belong to the same phrase of Britain’s imperial history” (p. 379). Magisterial as it is, this work’s parallel treatment of India and America, its origins in the encyclopedic Oxford History, and its incorporation of disparate historical hypotheses lead to duplication, repetition, crossreferencing, and inconclusiveness. “Making and Unmaking” is a description as well as a title. Marshall, however, does not waver from his primary point: the unity of imperial history in the later eighteenth century and the importance of India in that history. Readers of this multitudinous study are left to reconcile, collate, and choose from its rich materials. Every student of empire will be informed and enlightened by the exercise, even if they do not accept the judgment of the Cambridge eulogist of 1794 that “History in her proudest page [will] proclaim Cornwallis’ matchless praise, and vanquished Tippoo’s shame.” STEPHEN SAUNDERS WEBB Syracuse University BRIAN W. RICHARDSON. Longitude and Empire: How Captain Cook’s Voyages Changed the World. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. 2005. Pp. xvi, 240. $85.00.
AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW