Empire and Superempire


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Britain, America and the World

Bernard Porter

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A timely and provocative comparison of the British and American empires: are they alike, or are they very different beasts?

The present American “empire” is often compared with the British one of yore—not surprising in view of the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were once British imperial stamping grounds, too. But how alike are the two empires really? What are the connections between them? And what can we learn from the comparison?

In this compellingly written book, a leading historian of the British empire explores these questions in depth for the first time. Bernard Porter finds that Britain and America had uncannily similar imperial histories before the present day, but that now considerable differences exist. He argues that post-2001 American imperialism is an imperialism of a different sort--a “super-imperialism” that no longer repeats British imperialism but now transcends it.

Porter’s comparison illuminates British imperialism, including Tony Blair’s; the American version of imperialism administered under George W. Bush; and the relation of imperialism to such phenomena as capitalism, globalization, free trade, and international security. His insights are often surprising and always original and thought-provoking.

Bernard Porter is Emeritus Professor of History, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Widely known for his works on empire and British history, he is the author of The Lion's Share among many other books.

"...inquisitive, quirky... [This book] stimulates thought about our contemporary political condition… Porter’s clear desire [is] to make this work of intellectual and imperial history send a ringing message to our present day…” - Paul Kennedy, The Sunday Times

“In this keenly interesting book, Porter addresses crucial, perhaps utterly essential, contemporary questions and problems.”—Denis Judd, author of Empire: The British Imperial Experience from 1765 to the Present

“Porter always sees the forest for the trees, and he encourages his readers to do the same.”—Philip Harling, University of Kentucky

"[A] lively book. . . . A work that marries [Porter's] long-considered thoughts about Britain's imperial legacy . . . with recent musings upon America's global trajectory."—Paul Kennedy, Sunday Times

“Porter is alert to complexity. … [It] offers a more nuanced, suitably ambivalent picture.” - Stephen Howe, The Independent

“Porter is one of our leading historians of the British empire…[and he] writes really well. He presents complex arguments in clear, almost conversational writing…this was an exhilarating read.” - Tom Easton, Lobster 51

"[Porter] seek[s] to impose some degree of intellectual order on this turbulent and unpromising space."---Times Literary Supplement

'One of the most thoughtful books to emerge in the post -"end of history" era.' -The Commonwealth Lawyer

"Porter offers an exceedingly insightful vertical examination of the relationship between the British and American empires. . . . Fascinating."—Caroline Elkins, American Historical Review
ISBN: 9780300110104
Publication Date: April 15, 2006
224 pages, 51/2 x 81/2