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Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  166 ratings  ·  30 reviews

How rebellious colonies changed British attitudes to empire

Insurgent Empire shows how Britain’s enslaved and colonial subjects were active agents in their own liberation. What is more, they shaped British ideas of freedom and emancipation back in the United Kingdom.

Priyamvada Gopal examines a century of dissent on the question of empire and shows how British critics of

Hardcover, 631 pages
Published June 25th 2019 by Verso
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Asim Qureshi
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you could turn Priyamvada Gopal’s excellent ‘Insurgent Empire’ into a pill, it would serve as a very strong antidote to liberal-saviour narratives that we are consistently ‘treated’ to by apologists for the British empire.

Largely concentrating the early sections of the book on key moments of insurgency or insurrection within the wider British imagination in the mid to late 1800s, we come to understand through Gopal’s work that these were not unique, but rather sit on a longer continuum of ant
There is an oft repeated argument in discussion of Britain’s Imperial past (and present). For some, it is that on balance the British Empire was a good thing, spreading civilisation and well-being, despite the occasional outbreak of violence and excess in response to provocations by colonial subjects. For other apologists, it goes something like, well, even if you can’t accept that the Empire was a good thing, at least it wasn’t as bad as the others were. Still, a remarkably dubious claim. One o ...more
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, history
This book is not a narrative history, but an examination of key individuals, movements and especially writings in opposition to the British Empire. It establishes their existence in both the metropolis and the colonies, it reviews some of the ways they linked with each other across time and space, and it evaluates their significance, individually and cumulatively. It takes a little time and effort to settle into the style of the book, but it rewards that investment many times over. Although it i ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
The book is heavy post colonial jargon, thin on facts and personally i do not recommend reading it.
John Hardy
Jul 03, 2020 rated it did not like it
Simply a venomous, hateful attack on western society and culture. An ugly book.
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Can't quite remember what drew me to the book (I may have heard of the author and by extension decided to read her work) and as part of Women's History Month I thought it would be a good read. If you couldn't tell this book is about British colonists and slaves who actively fought against British and how their battles would influence and shape the fight back home for British critics.

It was okay. Not being that familiar with the people, particular time periods or historical context made this a to
Jul 11, 2019 marked it as wish-list

Insurgent Empire by Priyamvada Gopal review – a superb study of anticolonial resistance An important new history of opposition to the British empire, at home and overseas, from the Chartists and the Indian rebels to the Mau Mau uprising
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
There were better men and women in those times, in Britain and throughout the empire, than the Men of Their Times.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant takedown of the British Empire.
Gopal doesn't pretend to be comprehensive of all resistance to the empire, because there were so many critiques and rebellions against the British Empire in its time that it would be impossible to fit them all in one book, but she is extensive in her detailing of the case studies she selects. She goes through the incidents and people she selects with exhaustive, almost excruciating detail, but you'll walk away knowing more about the British Empire and
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant and important book. I just wish 1) it was slightly easier reading, for me and for my students, and 2) there was more of a focus on the history of the insurgencies themselves (the focus is overwhelmingly on how resistance in the colonies influenced the development of British anti-colonial dissent, with a focus on changing attitudes in Britain).
Nov 12, 2020 rated it liked it
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been one of President Trump’s closest international allies. How will he adapt to working with a Biden administration? Cambridge professor Priya Gopal says Johnson was clearly betting on a Trump reelection, especially amid Britain’s exit from the European Union. “I think they were certainly hoping that there would be a Trump victory,” says Gopal. “Brexit and Trump, as Trump quite correctly recognized, are very deeply in sync.”

GUEST Priya Gopal
author and profe
May 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slightly odd book, in that it seems to be history but is actually literary criticism applied in ways designs to identify new historical insights. This means that large chunks of it go into quite microscopic detail to extract insights from textual analysis.

The insights, however, are well worth the effort - even if the approach means this isn't exactly the most engagingly readable of tomes sitting on my shelves.

The introduction sets out the core argument, the rest of the book supports it - and i
Zahida Zahoor
Oct 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Priyamvada is a brilliant scholar and is invited to a number of news channels so I was keen to read her book. Unfortunately, Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent is written for academics, I felt I was reading someone PhD thesis rather than a book to educate the public. Priyamvada makes an important point that there was significant anti-colonial resistance in the West that played a significant role in bringing down the empire. However, the book is poorly written: once sen ...more
Chris Caps
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
A very important book that sprung a number of important ideas into my head and a book that has significantly reshaped some of my understanding of Empire and Anticolonial resistance. For much of what this book reveals, I can't fault it.
However, it's execution is hard work. There are moments where the book is gripping as well as illuminating but there are more moments where the book is clinical and dense. At points, this inevitably lessened the books impact.
Overall, I'm still appreciative of what
Joanna Ward
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: decolonising
feels kinda dumb to rate this as it’s less a book than an insanely huge seminal collation of hidden archives of anti-colonial activity and organising....? and also would DEFINITELY not recommend reading cover to cover lol it’s informationally dense so kinda not a “book” in how good reads functions with “books” ??

but what can I say it really is an essential read, the whole point of the book is to help us un/relearn the history of resistance to colonialism and for that you have to actually compreh
Rachel Loh
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This took me half a month to read but it was worth it. A great education (but not all of it) on anti colonial resistance and Britain’s complicity in maintaining white supremacy as well as how the people in past colonial nations were major drivers of taking back their countries while laying the foundation to the resistance we see today. A little dry and made me nod off a couple of times per day while I read this book but a necessary read for everyone.
Gemma Williams
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent academic book about how resistance to the British Empire always existed, and how the struggles of colonial subjects actively influenced Western commentators and allies. A really refreshing corrective to the patronising view that suggests colonial subjects learnt a taste for freedom purely as a result of imbibing 'British values' as a consequence of colonialism. ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal work that undermines completely the idea of the benevolence of the British empire while also killing any argument for key colonial actors being 'of their time' as if they could not possibly know otherwise. The link between colonised dissenters and activists in Britain is fascinating, the colonised were the tutors. ...more
Vid Calovski
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will come back to this review at some point, but this book is such a welcome panacea. IN an age when nationalism is really poisoning our public discourse this book opens up and leads to debates and individuals who demonstrate such an important way of thinking.
Mark Edon
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Academically dense writing.

But oh what a subject.

As a citizen of the country that probably enslaved more and stole more than any other at the time of empire this reading filled me with remorse and horror.

Insightful and ultimately (hopefully) extremely useful in making sure I know more about why I need to weigh in a little on the other side of the scales.
Mason Miller-Breetz
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
a resounding reversal! great insights, great info in here. read a little self-indulgently as a crash course (well, perhaps a little bit longer than that) in avenues for solidarity and allyship with radical movements against empire
Eurethius Péllitièr
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The deep analysis by Dr. Gopal of worker internationalism under Empire is vital for the struggles of today to relearn
Donna Hardcastle
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tremendous. Read it.
Jake Skemp
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
ESSENTIAL. the "Dunkirk spirit" is a lie, from defeated imperialists, attempting to relate to the heroic people they subjugated and exploited. ...more
gaverne Bennett
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Instant classic. Bears re reading.
Dec 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I felt like I had read parts of the story before, though each chapter wove well together. There must be more anticolonial histories written.
Gemma Sanderson
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
a must read.
Genevieve Brassard
Mar 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Only read half
Mar 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Very good in places, but sometimes got bogged down, near essential read though
Pushon Bhattacharya
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
An essential book on British colonialism that celebrates the people at home and abroad who bravely fought against the rotten, evil and genocidal institution known as the British Empire.
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