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George Bush's 'War on Terror' has inspired a forest of books about the new American Empire. But what about Britain's role in the world? "A People's History of the British Empire" challenges the claim that the British Empire was a kinder, gentler empire and suggests that the description of 'Rogue State' is more fitting. How many people today know about Britain's deep involv George Bush's 'War on Terror' has inspired a forest of books about the new American Empire. But what about Britain's role in the world? "A People's History of the British Empire" challenges the claim that the British Empire was a kinder, gentler empire and suggests that the description of 'Rogue State' is more fitting. How many people today know about Britain's deep involvement in the opium drug trade in China, or that Tony Blair's hero Gladstone devoted his maiden parliamentary speech to defending his family's slave plantation in Jamaica? John Newsinger has written a wonderful popular history of key episodes in British imperial history. He pays particular attention to the battles of the colonised to free themselves of its baleful rule, including Rebellion in Jamaica; The Irish Famine; The Opium Wars; The Great Indian Rebellion; The Conquest of Egypt; Palestine in Revolt; 'Quit India' and the struggle for Independence; Suez; Malaya; Kenya and Rhodesia; and, Britain and American Imperialism.


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George Bush's 'War on Terror' has inspired a forest of books about the new American Empire. But what about Britain's role in the world? "A People's History of the British Empire" challenges the claim that the British Empire was a kinder, gentler empire and suggests that the description of 'Rogue State' is more fitting. How many people today know about Britain's deep involv George Bush's 'War on Terror' has inspired a forest of books about the new American Empire. But what about Britain's role in the world? "A People's History of the British Empire" challenges the claim that the British Empire was a kinder, gentler empire and suggests that the description of 'Rogue State' is more fitting. How many people today know about Britain's deep involvement in the opium drug trade in China, or that Tony Blair's hero Gladstone devoted his maiden parliamentary speech to defending his family's slave plantation in Jamaica? John Newsinger has written a wonderful popular history of key episodes in British imperial history. He pays particular attention to the battles of the colonised to free themselves of its baleful rule, including Rebellion in Jamaica; The Irish Famine; The Opium Wars; The Great Indian Rebellion; The Conquest of Egypt; Palestine in Revolt; 'Quit India' and the struggle for Independence; Suez; Malaya; Kenya and Rhodesia; and, Britain and American Imperialism.

30 review for The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire

  1. 5 out of 5

    Simon Wood

    INTRODUCING THE REAL BRITISH EMPIRE John Newsingers "The Blood Never Dried" might be subtitled as a "Peoples History of the British Empire" but it is nothing of the sort. What the reader will instead find is a fine piece of writing that rather than providing a linear history of the Empire, examines a number of historical episodes that starkly illuminate what under girded the Empires existence: brutality and violence. The selection is from what is known as the second British Empire, that which exi INTRODUCING THE REAL BRITISH EMPIRE John Newsingers "The Blood Never Dried" might be subtitled as a "Peoples History of the British Empire" but it is nothing of the sort. What the reader will instead find is a fine piece of writing that rather than providing a linear history of the Empire, examines a number of historical episodes that starkly illuminate what under girded the Empires existence: brutality and violence. The selection is from what is known as the second British Empire, that which existed after the loss of the American colonies during the late eighteenth century. The episodes examined are (1) Jamaica and Slavery, (2) The Irish Famine, (3) The Opium Wars in China, (4) The 1857-58 Rebellion (Mutiny) in India, (5) The Invasion of Egypt in 1882, (6) The Imperial Crisis subsequent to WW1, (7) The Palestine Revolt of the late 1930's, (8) The campaign for Indian Independence, (9) The Suez War, (10) Kenya and the Mau-Mau Insurrection, (11) Malaya's "Emergency", and (12) Britains relationship with American Imperialism. Each chapter focussing on one of the subjects (as listed above) and also put the events described into a broader historical context, including many quotes from contemporary participants and observers. It also reminds the reader that what a vicious racist Churchill could be, not least in relation to Iraq (where he spoke up for gassing recalcitrant tribes) and India (where even his viceroy in India was appalled at his callous response to the Bengal Famine that cost millions of Indian lives). Those who have fond memories of Old Labour will be disturbed to discover that one area of continuity between New and Old is foreign policy. Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison and even Clement Atlee were quite as capable of carrying out brutal imperial policies as their Conservative opponents. Each episode also includes some commentary on how orthodox histories, and biographies, have dealt with the history that Newsinger brings to the reader, giving them an idea of the paucity and partiality of much historical writing on this subject. The only source of irritation, albeit minor, was Newsingers pigeon-holing of every insurrection, uprising, rebellion, etc as "revolutionary". "The Blood Never Dried" is an excellent introduction to the reality of the British Empire. It is far from exhaustive, it could easily be three or four times the size, but one that is an ideal riposte to some of the recent boosters of Empire, from Niall Ferguson (soon to revamp the history curriculum) to Tony Blair, Andrew Roberts to Gordon Brown, and all too many more. Well recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Liam89

    "On its Empire the sun never sets, and the blood never dried either." This withering retort to British jingoism from the socialist and radical Ernest Jones not only provided John Newsinger's book with an eye-catching title, but also tells you everything you need to know about the barbaric nature of the British Empire. The book strips away every attempt that has been made over the past fifty years to portray the Empire as a benevolent or civilising force. Beginning with the West Indian and Caribb "On its Empire the sun never sets, and the blood never dried either." This withering retort to British jingoism from the socialist and radical Ernest Jones not only provided John Newsinger's book with an eye-catching title, but also tells you everything you need to know about the barbaric nature of the British Empire. The book strips away every attempt that has been made over the past fifty years to portray the Empire as a benevolent or civilising force. Beginning with the West Indian and Caribbean slave revolts of the 18th Century, and charting British imperial missions in India, China, Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Ireland, Newsinger uses meticulous attention to detail to demonstrate how the British Empire was maintained through staggering cruelty, torture, mass-murder, extrajudicial executions, and internment without trial, and all in order to maintain the interests of the capitalist classes in London, for whom the Empire provided so much benefit. Apologists for Empire often claim that Britain provided civilisation and administrative experience to its colonies. However, these experiences only benefited the oppressed indigenous populations in the sense (as Karl Marx so presciently wrote about British rule in India) that such advances would one day enable them to facilitate the overthrow of their British masters. Compulsively readable, well-researched, and suitably outraged, this is a must for all opponents of imperialism, and all those who believe that there is any pride to be taken in having once maintained the largest empire the world has ever seen.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Journalist1

    My first question is how can anyone take seriously a book that fails even to get the Indian Independence Day correct? Newsinger is intellectually dishonest with a penchant for camouflaging success with failure, his faulty, revisionist view of the British Empire tells you more about the author than his subject. Here is a man who views everything through the lens of his ideology and that lens is at times rose-colored and alternatively muddy. One of the biggest concerns about his work is the lack o My first question is how can anyone take seriously a book that fails even to get the Indian Independence Day correct? Newsinger is intellectually dishonest with a penchant for camouflaging success with failure, his faulty, revisionist view of the British Empire tells you more about the author than his subject. Here is a man who views everything through the lens of his ideology and that lens is at times rose-colored and alternatively muddy. One of the biggest concerns about his work is the lack of peer review, The Blood Never Dried is highly predictable, pedantic and gives the reader a twisted and toxic sense of historical reality but what can one expect from a darling of Marxism? I am sure that American readers will lap this book up satisfying themselves that Hollywood history is the real deal. However, for the rest of us the book should be titled: 'Morton's Demon At Work' or 'How To Win Like-Minded Friends With Confirmation Bias'

  4. 5 out of 5

    Furqan

    "Debating Imperialism is a bit like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we really miss it?" - Arundhati Roy "Debating Imperialism is a bit like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we really miss it?" - Arundhati Roy

  5. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    This is a Marxist history of the British Empire, and that ideological viewpoint ought to be held in mind when dealing with this book. This is not a full history of the Empire, but it effectively amounts to a list of wrongs from the Marxist lens. It is sold as a counterpoint to so-called 'apologist' histories of the British Empire. In line with that, the author starts by castigating a well-known historians of the Empire who did not mention the Bengal famine. But during his account of the Taiping This is a Marxist history of the British Empire, and that ideological viewpoint ought to be held in mind when dealing with this book. This is not a full history of the Empire, but it effectively amounts to a list of wrongs from the Marxist lens. It is sold as a counterpoint to so-called 'apologist' histories of the British Empire. In line with that, the author starts by castigating a well-known historians of the Empire who did not mention the Bengal famine. But during his account of the Taiping Rebellion (pages 63-65), Newsinger does not mention that the Taiping rebels brutally massacred every Manchu man, woman and child in Nanjing when they took the city. He also praises the Taiping, despite their atrocities (for a much better account of the Taiping Rebellion, see Chapter 8 in Jonathan Spence's The Search For Modern China ) The Taiping Rebellion was not a heroic revolt as the author implies, but a catastrophe that caused 20 million deaths. That makes the author incredibly hypocritical, as he guilty of the very thing he criticized lots of other historians for. Newsinger also talks about the British burning down the Summer Palace during the Second Opium War as a great evil inflicted on China, but it is comparable to the British burning the Library of Congress during the War of 1812, something that he does not mention. If we were to judge this author by the standards he applied to others over the Bengal famine, then we must say that this author is negligent and trying to hide something. For a balanced and more objective history of British Empire, see the books by John Darwin (one of the historians Newsinger lambasted) which are far superior to this ideological diatribe. I also recommend The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Owain

    A must read for anyone with an interest in British history or the history of imperialism. Compulsory reading for everyone living in Britain (IMO). This book is jam-packed with the horrific injustices of centuries of colonial warfare, brutality and terrorism and although it misses out much from the early empire it concentrates on recent and current events. Events whose perpetrators are still with us. Which makes it incredibly relevant. I'm very much looking forward to reading other material from A must read for anyone with an interest in British history or the history of imperialism. Compulsory reading for everyone living in Britain (IMO). This book is jam-packed with the horrific injustices of centuries of colonial warfare, brutality and terrorism and although it misses out much from the early empire it concentrates on recent and current events. Events whose perpetrators are still with us. Which makes it incredibly relevant. I'm very much looking forward to reading other material from Newsinger.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Phil Brett

    A superb look at the British Empire, who existence dripped with blood. Sustained by brute force, double dealing, bribery, rape and murder, it is quite shocking how barbaric the actions to support Queen/King and country have been; and I speak as someone interested in history and one not overly misty-eyed over the conduct of British History. But as it seems that there is cabal of historians, appearing in the media, who want to 'reclaim' the history of the Empire and show its 'benefits', it is impo A superb look at the British Empire, who existence dripped with blood. Sustained by brute force, double dealing, bribery, rape and murder, it is quite shocking how barbaric the actions to support Queen/King and country have been; and I speak as someone interested in history and one not overly misty-eyed over the conduct of British History. But as it seems that there is cabal of historians, appearing in the media, who want to 'reclaim' the history of the Empire and show its 'benefits', it is important to remember the millions who were sacrificed to make Britain 'Great'. But the book isn't just about the victims of Empire; it describes the courage and bravery of people to fight against it. In India, Kenya, Ireland, indeed across the Empire, normal people consistently rose up and challenged those who had them in chains. If the actions of the Empire are appalling and stomach-churning, then the stories of those struggling to free themselves is inspiring.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle

    Arguably enlightening, and a great step back from apologist histories of the British Empire, but its not exactly extensive. It picks only the most well known British atrocities, and doesn't analyse them in any great depth. To call it a people's history is somewhat misrepresenting itself. It is still primarily concerned the actions of British officials and the overall movements they came up against. A much better example of a people's history on a similar topic would be Caroline Elkin's Britain's Arguably enlightening, and a great step back from apologist histories of the British Empire, but its not exactly extensive. It picks only the most well known British atrocities, and doesn't analyse them in any great depth. To call it a people's history is somewhat misrepresenting itself. It is still primarily concerned the actions of British officials and the overall movements they came up against. A much better example of a people's history on a similar topic would be Caroline Elkin's Britain's Gulag. Also, he writes with the kind of haughty and superior tone which is hard to take after the first few chapters.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Priyam Roy

    2.5 stars. Basically a summarized version of experiences people had being ruled by the British, compacted in a book with ridiculous amounts of errors. The ones that come to mind: the date of Indian independence, and the number of people murdered in Jallianwala Bagh being well off. It becomes hard to trust the rest of the book after such mistakes, a better alternative to read would be Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marcy

    Newsinger's book is definitely not an introduction to the British empire. Nor is it actually a people's history, if by people's history one means using Zinn's methodology. But just as Zinn's work helps one to see American history from a new and more honest vantage point, Newsinger's book plugs into British history and gives readers insight into British colonialism and resistance to it whether in Kenya or India or Palestine or Egypt. It's not expansive, but the book offers readers the ability to Newsinger's book is definitely not an introduction to the British empire. Nor is it actually a people's history, if by people's history one means using Zinn's methodology. But just as Zinn's work helps one to see American history from a new and more honest vantage point, Newsinger's book plugs into British history and gives readers insight into British colonialism and resistance to it whether in Kenya or India or Palestine or Egypt. It's not expansive, but the book offers readers the ability to compare British interests in various contexts as well as their strategy for oppressing people and robbing them of their resources. While the people's history element is a bit muted, those whose voices are loudest in the volume are former British military men, and at times their wives or other similar types of witnesses, all of whom narrate the atrocities they committed or participated in in one way or another. For anyone interested in imperialism or British history this book is definitely a must read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    It's not often that I read a book that sickens me to the stomach. This one did. So much so that I don't really want to write a full review. Just to say that if you are interested in the British Empire you should read this book, if only as balance for the many more "traditional" accounts. Just want to mention one thing. I always assumed the Attlee government (probably the most Left wing government the UK has ever elected) gave India and Pakistan independence on the basis of principle. I was wrong. It's not often that I read a book that sickens me to the stomach. This one did. So much so that I don't really want to write a full review. Just to say that if you are interested in the British Empire you should read this book, if only as balance for the many more "traditional" accounts. Just want to mention one thing. I always assumed the Attlee government (probably the most Left wing government the UK has ever elected) gave India and Pakistan independence on the basis of principle. I was wrong. They would have held on if they could, but it just wasn't practical due to lack of military and economic power - they had no realistic choice. Frankly, one of the lessons from this book is that when it comes to imperialism, the record of Liberal and Labour governments is no better than that of the Tory ones. Which is quite thought-provoking in itself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jo Murphy

    A concise overview of the history of the British Empire that builds up a devastating picture of the crimes committed by the British state. From the slave triangle, through the Irish famine, follow Britain's bloody footprints through Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The book could have been subtitled - and the role that the Labour Government has played. The point being to show how even when a government was domestically progressive at home, they were still war monger's abroad. A good overview th A concise overview of the history of the British Empire that builds up a devastating picture of the crimes committed by the British state. From the slave triangle, through the Irish famine, follow Britain's bloody footprints through Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The book could have been subtitled - and the role that the Labour Government has played. The point being to show how even when a government was domestically progressive at home, they were still war monger's abroad. A good overview that whets your appetite for more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom Ferguson

    I wish I had read this when I was at Uni a long time ago. I would have opened my eyes to the true horrors of the British Empire and acknowledged the rose tinted version of British History we were fed by the Scottish education system. Years of studying the horrors of Nazi Germany but nothing about the genocide Britain committed through out Africa and Asia and beyond. This book lays it all out in detail.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    This is the first book in a very long time that I did not finish and I do not intend to finish. While the subject matter is important, this book is written with a very clear marxist bias and most of the text consists of quoting different authors.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Brilliant Book which brings to light the darker side of the British Empire.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    A powerful corrective to the usual rose-tinted view of the British Empire peddled by apologists like Niall Ferguson.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hassan Alsaeid

    Concise look at the rebellions and moments of British colonialism which are often forgotten.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sean O'Donoghue

    Great overview of the stuff the Brits did in Empire which didn’t make it to the majority of books on Empire. It’s 260 page has 12 essays on different parts of empire...The Mau Mau, the Irish famine, Palestine, India, Jamaica, Indonesia etc. What it does beautifully is highlight the woeful racism at the heart of the decision making machinery...ie British officer Foran..”the machine gun was kept in action so long during this sharp engagement that it became red-hot to the touch. Before the Kisii wa Great overview of the stuff the Brits did in Empire which didn’t make it to the majority of books on Empire. It’s 260 page has 12 essays on different parts of empire...The Mau Mau, the Irish famine, Palestine, India, Jamaica, Indonesia etc. What it does beautifully is highlight the woeful racism at the heart of the decision making machinery...ie British officer Foran..”the machine gun was kept in action so long during this sharp engagement that it became red-hot to the touch. Before the Kisii warriors were repulsed, they left several hundred dead and wounded spearmen outside the square of bayonets. This was not so much a battle than a massacre “. Thus it was in every battle ...the British had far superior modern weaponry and in just about all instances mowed down “the enemy” without constraints, killing sometimes 100s to every of their losses. And Winston Churchill.....”it is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Ghandi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer,now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half naked up the steps of the vice regal lodge..to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor”. How nauseating can one man get, posing as a representative of the “civilised” world. The book also eviscerates The Labour Party’s role in Empire...Atlee’s 1945 government was just as vicious and racist as the Tories and Liberals. When a trade union leader was sentenced to death in Malaya, Attlee refused to ask for clemency. Great and easy read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Asha Stark

    I honestly cannot articulate how enraged this book left me- Not because the book is bad, but because of the lies and sadism so deeply entrenched in English history, yet so blithely ignored by historians and curricula. That practices expected of the Gestapo were carried out by the British Empire well into the 19th century is, while not unfathomable given the Empire's history, certainly nauseating, the fact that not one single politician has been held to account, that we allow people to bask in th I honestly cannot articulate how enraged this book left me- Not because the book is bad, but because of the lies and sadism so deeply entrenched in English history, yet so blithely ignored by historians and curricula. That practices expected of the Gestapo were carried out by the British Empire well into the 19th century is, while not unfathomable given the Empire's history, certainly nauseating, the fact that not one single politician has been held to account, that we allow people to bask in the nostalgia of the Empire's 'glory days' without second thought- All of it is just abhorrent. That without fail, the British Labour Party's policies and actions have left as many dead, traumatised, mutilated, deprived, as any dictatorship, should be common knowledge. That the UK's Glorious Dead were all sent off not to fight fascism, but to maintain a crumbling empire- and in vain- should be a widely accepted view. That every single Prime Minister should be hanged for their treatment of citizens of 'their' empire, inarguable. Instead politicians and royalty alike are lionised, deified even. It's sick. The only minuscule comfort in all of this is the abasement of Westminster at the hands of the USA since WW2- Something Tories and New Labour alike will know and choke on.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Foster

    "The reality of colonial rule is that it always rests on the shoulders of a policeman or soldier beating a suspect or applying a cigarette to their testicles." Lovely stuff. Very efficient and harrowing when focusing purely on telling a story, found it more problematic as historical text. Very clearly written as a response to New Labour's right turn and I didn't find the author's efforts to pair up Blair and Gladstone, New Labour and post-WW2 labour, etc convincing. Generalisations about how hist "The reality of colonial rule is that it always rests on the shoulders of a policeman or soldier beating a suspect or applying a cigarette to their testicles." Lovely stuff. Very efficient and harrowing when focusing purely on telling a story, found it more problematic as historical text. Very clearly written as a response to New Labour's right turn and I didn't find the author's efforts to pair up Blair and Gladstone, New Labour and post-WW2 labour, etc convincing. Generalisations about how history has viewed the Empire felt under-sourced in comparison to the amount of really interesting (but brutal) primary sources. Still a very interesting read for more perspective on the historical reckoning going on

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sue Chant

    I thought our current crop of politicians were a shower of sh*ts, but after reading this I see they're just following in the inglorious footsteps of their predecessors - lies, deception, profiteering and downright murder. My school history never told us about the brave attempts of colonised people to overthrow their oppressors, or the brutality with which they were met. An excellent and disturbing book. I thought our current crop of politicians were a shower of sh*ts, but after reading this I see they're just following in the inglorious footsteps of their predecessors - lies, deception, profiteering and downright murder. My school history never told us about the brave attempts of colonised people to overthrow their oppressors, or the brutality with which they were met. An excellent and disturbing book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Md. Al-Beruni

    The book is too short to describe to atrocity of British colonialism in its entirety but it managed to make the point. However, the writings betrayed the author's bias against capitalism in favor of communism. In his criticism, though justified most of the time, the writer has included some of the actions which many might consider as the right things to do. The book is too short to describe to atrocity of British colonialism in its entirety but it managed to make the point. However, the writings betrayed the author's bias against capitalism in favor of communism. In his criticism, though justified most of the time, the writer has included some of the actions which many might consider as the right things to do.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katy Owen

    While an important corrective to the narrative of a "benevolent" British empire, I was disappointed with The Blood Never Dried. It's mostly narrative accounts of rebellions, repressions and battles with very little on ideology. What little analysis there is is often simplistic. While an important corrective to the narrative of a "benevolent" British empire, I was disappointed with The Blood Never Dried. It's mostly narrative accounts of rebellions, repressions and battles with very little on ideology. What little analysis there is is often simplistic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A worthwhile survey of some of the most egregious episodes of British imperialism, but I didn’t find it enticing to read. The focus jumps around so much that it’s hard to settle into and it rarely attempts to contextualise events or explain their wider logic.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John P. Davidson

    Well written and informative look at the British Empire.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sean Donnelly

    A brilliant, clear and well researched exploration of British Empire. The brutality inflicted on the people of Ireland, India, China, Africa and the Middle East.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ptolemy

    Brilliant if a bit ranty at times. Hard to stomach, as such a history should be.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paulina Parzych

    The history of the British Empire's crimes commited for its own benefits. Excellent knowledge however a bit biased The history of the British Empire's crimes commited for its own benefits. Excellent knowledge however a bit biased

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Ellis

    Mostly very good though I felt the author was rather insensitive about why Jewish people were moving to what is now Israel during the 1930's. Mostly very good though I felt the author was rather insensitive about why Jewish people were moving to what is now Israel during the 1930's.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pan Dora

    I usually got pissed about how US stick their noses into other ppls businesses but UK, damm, who are you to criticize... I am not a national and had 0 knowledge of British History when I decided to start this reading. Is being very difficult to retain information due to the huge amount of dates, names and facts. So I would recommend to have some immersion first. It's a book for having and consulting constantly specially if you are a student. It would be a good way to improve critical sense of ppl a I usually got pissed about how US stick their noses into other ppls businesses but UK, damm, who are you to criticize... I am not a national and had 0 knowledge of British History when I decided to start this reading. Is being very difficult to retain information due to the huge amount of dates, names and facts. So I would recommend to have some immersion first. It's a book for having and consulting constantly specially if you are a student. It would be a good way to improve critical sense of ppl and prevent blind believes that British Imperialism was a good one. It's just like to say that Brazil is a racial democracy just because there wasn't an Apartheid in there...

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