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Absent Minded Imperialism: Britain and the Expansion of Empire in 19th-Century Brazil

ISBN: 9781850439134
Publisher: I.B.Tauris
Publication Date: 1995-04-15
Number of pages: 224
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This book looks at the mainsprings of imperial expansion and illustrates the grain of truth in J.R. Seeley's famous phrase in The Expansion of England: 'We seem to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.' Peter Riviere gives a vivid account of how the British Empire at the zenith of its power was dragged reluctantly, and with little thought and no clear policy, into a minor border dispute with Brazil which was solved only after sending a boundary commission and an expeditionary force.

Centred on the Indian village of Pirara on the border between northern Brazil and British Guiana, in a remote territory in the interior, the story of the Anglo-Brazilian border dispute reveals much about the varied and conflicting motivations of imperial expansion. Zealous Protestant and Catholic mission activity, attempts to end slavery, and the overwhelming motivation to establish links and to define and control imperial boundaries were key aspects of the dispute. This is a beautifully written and vivid anthropological and historical narrative, with acute analysis of imperial expansion, based upon extensive fieldwork and Foreign Office, Colonial Office and missionary society records.

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