The Rise and Fall of the British Empire

Patrick Allitt
Patrick Allitt
Emory University

Patrick Allitt has been a professor of American History at Emory University since 1988, where he teaches courses on American intellectual, environmental, and religious history, as well as Victorian Britain and the Great Books. After earning an undergraduate degree at Oxford and a Ph.D. in American history at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Princeton. He is the author of seven books, including his most recent: A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.




July 13, 2022, 4:00 pm

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Britain built a world-bestriding empire between 1588, when its navy defeated the Spanish Armada, and 1919, when it seized former German and Turkish colonies after World War I.  In North America, the Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand its settlers displaced the indigenous people and prospered.  In the Far East and Africa, by contrast, few Britons settled.  British administrators there tried to maintain order, keep out such imperial rivals as Spain, France, Holland, and Germany, and generate profits.  The moral rights and wrongs of the British Empire were debated keenly at the time and have been debated ever since.  By the mid-twentieth century, however, anti-imperial feeling in Britain led to the decision to dismantle the empire between the mid 1940s and the mid 1960s.  Its cultural and political heritage, however, shapes the world we live in today in a thousand ways, beginning with the global dominance of the English language.




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