Authored by: Damon Salesa

The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754664154
eBook ISBN: 9781315613277
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042525


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The relationships between modern empires and racial discourses were multiple, deep, persistent and synergetic. Just as race provided key, central and pervasive modalities for modern empires, modern empires catalysed and energised developing concepts of race. These concepts of race, barely evident in the European experience of the sixteenth century, had by the nineteenth century become pervasive, moving from the provinces of intellectuals, or colonial populations, to the very centres of European, American – even global – politics. By the close of the nineteenth century, race had become an organising principle of colonial and imperial statecraft, and racial discourses had proven to be critical grounds upon which new fields of knowledge were constituted. Racialised knowledge and practice had become an ordinary condition of the administration of empires and colonies, and governed important dimensions of life in empires, whether one was ruling or ruled. At their most intense, racial discourses proved so pervasive and powerful that they made race itself seem a self-evident and ‘natural’ condition of the world: race could explain the past and outline the future, and through race much of the present might be experienced, directed and understood.

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