Ghosts of Empire

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am


Ghosts of Empire
by Kwasi Kwarteng
Audible (audiobook)

Imperialism is sometimes suggested as a means of maintaining world order, says Kwasi Kwarteng. But, using the example of the British empire, he argues that it is the opposite: that a lack of foresight and the excessive powers afforded colonial administrators led to chronic problems and instability. Ghosts of Empire avoids using race as a key to understanding empire, but arrogance and status consciousness were distinctive features of British rule, according to Kwarteng, a historian and Conservative MP whose Ghanaian parents experienced empire at firsthand. British officials and governors were often, he argues, too individualistic to do any long-term good, while the system was anarchic and ultimately self-defeating. The section on Hong Kong looks at, among other things, the legacy of Sir Alexander Grantham, who had no interest in continuing Mark Young's proposal for representative democracy. Kwarteng's book provides a fascinating counterbalance to the pro-empire books of late and will resonate just about every time you read the news today.