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Legacy of empire

Forget ideology—listen to the voices of those who were ruled

French cartoon from 1898: China is being carved up by (left to right) Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicolas II, the French Marianne, and the Meiji Emperor of Japan as, behind them, a Qing official protests in vain

The relationship between Islam and the west, the rise of tiger economies in Asia, and the modern-day role of the United States as world leader can all be illuminated by reference to the history of empire. Yet modern accounts of empire—or the British empire, at least—often focus too narrowly on whether it…

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