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Time's Monster

How History Makes History

Priya Satia



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Harvard Uni.Press Academi
15 October 2020
A New Statesman Book of the Year An award-winning author reconsiders the role of historians in political debate.

For generations, British thinkers told the history of an empire whose story was still very much in the making. While they wrote of conquest, imperial rule in India, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean was consolidated. While they described the development of imperial governance, rebellions were brutally crushed. As they reimagined empire during the two world wars, decolonization was compromised. Priya Satia shows how these historians not only interpreted the major political events of their time but also shaped the future that followed.

Satia makes clear that historical imagination played a significant role in the unfolding of empire. History emerged as a mode of ethics in the modern period, endowing historians from John Stuart Mill to Winston Churchill with outsized policymaking power. At key moments in Satia's telling, we find Britons warding off guilty conscience by recourse to particular notions of history, especially those that spotlighted great men helpless before the will of Providence. Braided with this story is an account of alternative visions articulated by anticolonial thinkers such as William Blake, Mahatma Gandhi, and E. P. Thompson. By the mid-twentieth century, their approaches had reshaped the discipline of history and the ethics that came with it.

Time's Monster demonstrates the dramatic consequences of writing history today as much as in the past. Against the backdrop of enduring global inequalities, debates about reparations, and the crisis in the humanities, Satia's is an urgent moral voice.
By:   Priya Satia
Imprint:   Harvard Uni.Press Academi
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780674248373
ISBN 10:   0674248376
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   15 October 2020
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Priya Satia is the award-winning author of Spies in Arabia and Empire of Guns. The Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History and Professor of British History at Stanford University, she has written for the Financial Times, The Nation, Time, the Washington Post, and other outlets.

Reviews for Time's Monster: How History Makes History

Attractive and original. -- Tunku Varadarajan * Wall Street Journal * A magisterial account of the role of history in the making of the British Empire. At a moment of chronic hand-wringing over the decline of the historical profession and the crisis of the humanities, Time's Monster is an especially welcome addition for understanding how history can be used and misused. -- Dinyar Patel, author of <i>Naoroji</i> As people around the globe struggle against a world order that owes its existence to rampant resource exploitation and dehumanizing beliefs about racial hierarchies, Priya Satia has given us a timely and powerful reminder about the complicity of history, as a discipline, in the making of that order. -- Jacob Dlamini, author of <i>The Terrorist Album</i> A deeply insightful account of the way historical thinking informs the exercise of power. If historians are to play a positive role in the struggle to bend the arc of human history away from tyranny and toward justice, the lessons of this book should weigh heavily on our collective conscience. But more than that, this work is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand how the way we know the past shapes our future possibilities. -- Vincent Brown, author of <i>Tacky's Revolt</i> A pathbreaking study of the historical imagination's founding in colonialism. Moving from historical counternarratives to antihistorical thinking and poetry, Priya Satia guides us through important new ways of understanding the imperial past and its effects on our shared future. -- Faisal Devji, author of <i>The Impossible Indian</i> In this searing book, Priya Satia demonstrates, yet again, that she is one of our most brilliant and original historians. Time's Monster casts new light on the British Empire by homing in on a fundamental question-how did 'good' men, acutely concerned with their consciences, preside over systematic exploitation and repeated atrocities? Satia shows that only if we grapple with the complicity of historians in assuaging their moral qualms can we confront empire's darkest legacies in our troubled world. -- Sunil Amrith, author of <i>Unruly Waters</i> History writing once burnished the monument of imperial progress, and continues to do so for many audiences today. In her brilliant and coruscating account of the uses of history in the making and unmaking of the British empire, Priya Satia offers a striking new way of confronting the problems that continue to plague contemporary societies. This is a bravura performance. -- Samuel Moyn, author of <i>Not Enough</i> Deeply thought-provoking and incisively argued, Time's Monster is sure to become a classic for anyone interested in European empires and the role of history in shaping human behavior. In this extraordinary book, Priya Satia weaves wide-ranging evidence into a lively narrative, proving incontrovertibly why she is one of the most important historians of our time. -- Caroline Elkins, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of <i>Imperial Reckoning</i> A probing new book...Joins a dense body of scholarship analyzing liberal justifications for empire. -- Maya Jasanoff * New Yorker * Satia delivers volley after volley of ferocious attacks on 'the self-pitying liberal view of empire.'...Raises an important question about whether historians are prosecutors and history is a court in which judgments should be passed on accused individuals. -- Tony Barber * Financial Times * A book about history and empire. Not a straightforward history, but an account of how the discipline of history has itself enabled the process of colonization...A coruscating and important reworking of the relationship between history, historians, and empire. -- Kenan Malik * The Guardian * Bracingly describes the ways imperialist historiography has shaped visions of the future as much as the past since the nineteenth century. -- Pankaj Mishra * New York Review of Books *

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