informal-empire-the-origin-and-significance-of-a-key-term.pdf (451.37 kB)
Informal Empire: The Origin and Significance of a Key term
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-23, 15:44 authored by Bernard P Attard
Ever since the publication of “The Imperialism of Free Trade” by John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson in 1953, “informal empire” has been a key term for historians. It has, however, always been contentious. The central issue was whether imperial historians were prepared to accept a new concept of empire. This essay explains the paradox of informal empire by creating a stronger provenance for the term. Since the early nineteenth century, imperial metaphors have been used to characterize Britain’s position in the world economy. Gallagher and Robinson—like their immediate predecessors, Charles Fay and Keith Hancock—wanted to understand British imperialism in the broader context of European expansion while also formulating an alternative to the radical-liberal and neo-Marxist interpretations widely current after World War One. Ultimately, the difficulty of using “empire” as a single category led Gallagher and one of his most influential successors to choose an alternative term.
Author affiliationSchool of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
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