Assimilation and Empire: Uniformity in French and British Colonies, 1541-1954 (Hardback)
  • Assimilation and Empire: Uniformity in French and British Colonies, 1541-1954 (Hardback)
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Assimilation and Empire: Uniformity in French and British Colonies, 1541-1954 (Hardback)

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£56.00
Hardback 244 Pages / Published: 21/03/2013
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Assimilation was an ideology central to European expansion and colonisation, an ideology which legitimised colonisation for centuries. Assimilation and Empire shows that the aspiration for assimilation was not only driven by materialistic reasons, but was also motivated by ideas. The engine of assimilation was found in the combination of two powerful ideas: the European philosophical conception of human perfectibility and the idea of the modern state. Europeans wanted to create, in their empires, political and cultural forms they valued and wanted to realise in their own societies, but which did not yet exist. Saliha Belmessous examines three imperial experiments - seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New France, nineteenth-century British Australia, and nineteenth and twentieth-century French Algeria - and reveals the complex inter-relationship between policies of assimilation, which were driven by a desire for perfection and universality, and the greatest challenge to those policies, discourses of race, which were based upon perceptions of difference. Neither colonised nor European peoples themselves were able to conform to the ideals given as the object of assimilation. Yet, the deep links between assimilation and empire remained because at no point since the sixteenth century has the utopian project of perfection - articulated through the progressive theory of history - been placed seriously in question. The failure of assimilation pursued through empire, for both colonised and coloniser, reveals the futility of the historical pursuit of perfection.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199579167
Number of pages: 244
Weight: 528 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 20 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
This engaging work provides a new way to explore assimilation within Western empires and will refocus scholars on the intellectual traditions and hopes that made assimilation such an important factor within these empires. Summing Up: Highly recommended. * CHOICE *
an informative, valuable work. The geographical and chronological range of its inquiry is impressive, and each case is investigated in considerable depth, with evidence drawn from a plenitude of primary and secondary sources. Moreover, Belmessous has much to say that is fresh and illuminating about French and British policies toward indigenous peoples. * American Historical Review *
Belmessous posits original and stimulating new directions for the field ... Belmessous has certainly opened up a fascinating strand of enquiry. * Australian Historical Studies *
Belmessous has opened up new avenues for future research. Although by no means complete, Belmessous certainly succeeds in her aim to present the history of assimilation as a singular history', underscored especially through the carefully crafted connections and comparisons across the different sections of this wide-ranging work. The multiple perspectives and methodologies employed in this study, as well as its longue duree approach, underscore the originality of this book and its important contribution to our historical knowledge. Furthermore, the insightful discussion of the resilience of assimilation in contemporary Australia, Algeria and France means that the resonance of Belmessouss work goes beyond the study of the past to the present day. * Joanna Warson, Modern and Contemporary France *
Assimilation and Empire makes a very useful contribution to the literature on uniformity and difference in colonial contexts and will be thought provoking for specialists in any one of the three areas or periods covered. The succinct and accessible contextualization of each case study will also ensure its appeal to general audiences. * Natalya Vince, History *

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