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The Imperial Idea and its Enemies: A Study on British Power
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The Imperial Idea and its Enemies: A Study on British Power

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Hardcover, 372 pages
Published January 1st 1985 by St. Martin's Press
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Aug 09, 2016 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi, wwii, victorian
This is an examination of British attitudes to the British Empire and imperialism from the 1850s until the 1950s. It was published in 1959, three years after the Suez debacle, when it became clear that British imperial power was at an end. Thornton has a pleasing, articulate style; the book is almost an impressionistic account of the era. Throughout the book, Thornton is very good at explaining the mindset of various different political sets, such as the Radicals.

The mid-nineteenth century saw
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“In time of war, under the banner of an enemy recognisable as such, a foreigner from a camp outside the lines, the imperial idea grew strong in confidence and temper. The British democracy rallied to the call of a strong leadership, and it was not just in rhetorical enthusiasm but with considerable personal satisfaction that Churchill hailed the year 1940-1 as the British people's 'finest hour'. He, with other imperialists, was delighted by the fact that, when it came to the sticking-place, it was the old-fashioned loyalty of the reactionary British Empire to all that was symbolised by allegiance to Crown and country that came forward to save European civilisation from utter overthrow by German tyranny...The days of showing the flag—even for only a momentary glimpse, such as wall that inhabitants of Greece and Crete and Dieppe had of it—had returned. The Empire was the Empire once more, and to 10, Downing Street returned that imperial control that two generations of Dominion opinion had combined to condemn as sinister.” 1 likes
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