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Making HistoryEdward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics$
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G.A. Bremner and Jonathan Conlin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265871

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265871.001.0001

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Alter Orbis: E. A. Freeman on Empire and Racial Destiny

Alter Orbis: E. A. Freeman on Empire and Racial Destiny

(p.217) 12 Alter Orbis: E. A. Freeman on Empire and Racial Destiny
Making History

Duncan Bell

British Academy

This essay analyses E. A. Freeman’s views on the past, present, and future of the British Empire. It elucidates in particular how his understanding of Aryan racial history and the glories of Ancient Greece helped to shape his account of the British Empire and its pathologies. Freeman was deeply critical of both the British Empire in India and projects for Imperial Federation. Yet he was no ‘little Englander.’ Indeed, it is argued that Freeman’s scepticism about modern European forms of empire-building was informed by an ambition to establish a globe-spanning political community composed of the ‘English-speaking peoples’. At the core of this imagined racial community, united by kinship and common citizenship, stood the Anglo-American connection, and Freeman repeatedly sought to convince people on both sides of the Atlantic about their collective history and their shared destiny. For Freeman, the institutions of formal empire stood in the way of this grandiose vision of world order.

Keywords:   Edward Augustus Freeman, Imperial Federation, empire, race, United States, history of English-speaking peoples

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