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Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  14 reviews
In this path-breaking book Linda Colley reappraises the rise of the biggest empire in global history. Excavating the lives of some of the multitudes of Britons held captive in the lands their own rulers sought to conquer, Colley also offers an intimate understanding of the peoples and cultures of the Mediterranean, North America, India, and Afghanistan.

Here are harrowing,
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ebook, 464 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2002)
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David Nichols
Captivity, Linda Colley reports in this engagingly written and lavishly illustrated study, was an influential but understudied element of the British imperial project of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Before the middle of the 1800s, Britain was a small nation with a massively overextended empire, and the experience of capture demonstrated the vulnerability of its subjects and how easily non-Western peoples could thwart Britain's ambitions.

In the seventeenth century, England aspired to
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Caroline
As many historians before and since have pointed out, the most remarkable thing about the British Empire was not its size, its diversity or its longevity, but the fact that it existed at all. That such a huge empire, encompassing many millions of square miles, people, cultures and religions, could have been based at its core on such a small island with a limited population and limited resources, seems almost impossible. Of course, that inherent smallness is an intrinsic part of the explanation f ...more
Andrewh
This is one of the best written history books I have ever read, and Colley gives the lie to the fourth line of Rule Britannia in great style. An interesting micro-history that turns traditional imperial history completely on its head - it combines academic excellence with great story-telling and a light touch. I would greatly recommend it - especially if you want to see how fractured and weak the early British empire really was.
D.L. Denham
In Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, Linda Colley exposes a perspective of the Imperial Britain that goes against traditional history. Although Britain experienced expansion at an unprecedented rate during the late 1600s until the mid-1800s, it had spread itself too thin across the globe. The British navy, its manpower, was unable to effectively control the vast number of territories claimed by the Britain. The money and physical presence was never fully effective at dominatin ...more
John
A very good history, and an outstanding example of creative linkage--taking the histories of captives by the "other" (from an English perspective) and using those to illustrate the development of English attitudes towards the "exotic".
Tavner Delcamp
'Captives' by the historian Linda Colley relates aspects of the British Empire from 1600-1850 which I believe are unfamiliar to most readers, myself included. I thought I knew a fair amount about the British Empire, but this book enhanced my knowledge by quite a lot. The advance of the British throughout the world beginning around 1600 seemed like an inexorable process given the supremacy of the navy in most areas of the world, especially after the Dutch and Portuguese navies began to decline. B ...more
Filip
Move on, those of you who hoped to read titillating tiles of the white slave trade. No such thing here. The book starts with a relatively short part on British captives in Northern Africa, a second part on settlers in North America (who would occasionally go to live with the Indians, either voluntarily or forcibly), and a rather long and tedious part on conditions of army soldiers in India. These soldiers are called 'military captives', so as not to do too much injustice to the dramatic title (t ...more
David Cheshire
Historian Linda Colley has a well-deserved reputation for originality. "Britons" showed how the invention of Britishness took place in response to a particular 18th century context. Now she uses the remarkable narratives produced by various "captives" to reflect on the theme of weakness during much of the history of the British Empire. This is unusual enough. But they provide a launch-pad for an even more startling insight about the British empire: that it was born out of an acute awareness of h ...more
Kathryn Walters
I also had to read this book for my Colonial North America history class, and it actually was better than I expected. My initial expectation was that it would be just about the British slave trade, but I couldn't be more wrong. The central argument of the book - that identity is subjective, not objective - related very well to what we were studying in class. This account of the plight of captives during the rise of the British Empire is divided into three parts: the Mediterranean, North America, ...more
John
This book is troubling to me - I can't decide to what degree I like her argument. I guess that's not quite right, I do like her argument, but I don't know if I agree with it. Colley's grand message here is that while we may think of the British Empire as having been big and powerful, the actual Britons who made up that Empire were lowly and weak. On the peripheries of empire, Britons were taken captive all the time. Often, particularly in North Africa, they were enslaved - though as Colley point ...more
Nicholas
I was hoping for much more from this book. Very little is learned about captives of any kind. The author restates her thesis dozens of times and shows little ability with narrative.
mary
Sep 19, 2008 mary rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to mary by: Aidan Redmond
Colley examines captives' stories and uses them to illustrate the complexities behind British imperial expansion in the period 1600 to 1850. She looks at three areas in particular, the Mediterranean and North Africa, America and India. One of her points is that, with such a small home base, Britain had to rely heavily on others, including the "captured", to maintain her primacy; on the Islamic powers in North Africa to hold her possessions in the Mediterranean; on Native Americans against the re ...more
Nathan
I don't recommend the Kindle ebook. It totally lacks internal formatting- no chapter divisions, no hyperlinked footnotes, nothing.
David
Extremely engaging. Colley is a remarkable historian, which is not only exhibited in her display of research, but in the narrative she delivers.
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