Social Policy and the British Imperial Legacy
Edited by James Midgley and David Piachaud
James Midgley and David Piachaud From about the end of fifteenth century to the end of the twentieth century, a number of European nations used their economic, political and military power to subjugate, annex and settle vast geographic areas in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The Portuguese and Spanish initiated this process by embarking on mercantile voyages that resulted in the creation of trading enclaves on different continents. However, trade was soon followed by military conflict, annexation, colonial settlement and the subjugation of millions of people. Other European nations including the Netherlands, France and Britain followed the Iberian lead and subsequently the United States, Russia and Japan also undertook imperial expeditions. At the end of the nineteenth century, as new territories in Africa were conquered, imperialism reached its apogee. At the same time, the struggle for sovereignty was well underway. In Latin America, Iberian rule had already come to an end and nationalist independence movements were beginning to mobilize in Asia and other parts of the world. After the Second World War, these campaigns intensified and, over a period of just a few decades, European imperial rule disintegrated. By the end of the century, many new sovereign nation states had been created and today comprise the basic units of the current global economic and political system. Although the history of European imperialism has been extensively documented, few people today are aware of its sheer extent and its effects on the lives of hundreds of millions of subjugated people. Historians have,...