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Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution

Date and Time: 
Thursday, May 3, 2018. 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Bender Room, Green Library
Workshop: 
Approaches to Capitalism
Meeting Description: 

We have long understood the Industrial Revolution as a triumphant story of innovation and technology. Empire of Guns, a rich and ambitious new book by award-winning historian Priya Satia, upends this conventional wisdom by placing war and Britain’s prosperous gun trade at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the state’s imperial expansion. Empire of Guns uses the story of Galton and the gun trade, from Birmingham to the outermost edges of the British empire, to illuminate the nation’s emergence as a global superpower, the roots of the state’s role in economic development, and the origins of our era’s debates about gun control and the “military-industrial complex” — that thorny partnership of government, the economy, and the military. Through Satia’s eyes, we acquire a radically new understanding of this critical historical moment and all that followed from it.

Professor Satia will talk about her new book and open the floor to questions. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Priya Satia specializes in modern British and British empire history, especially in the Middle East and South Asia. Professor Satia uses the methods of cultural history to study the evolution of the material infrastructure of the modern world in the age of empire--state institutions, military technologies, economic development. Her work examines the ways in which the imperial past has shaped the present and how the ethical dilemmas it posed were understood and managed. Professor Satia has explored these questions in studies of British policing of the Middle East in the era of World War One, the invention of radio during the Boer War, the British Indian development of Iraq, state secrecy in mass-democratic Britain, the gun-making exploits of a Quaker family during the industrial revolution, and other projects. Her work on aerial policing has also informed her analysis of American drone use in the Middle East. Professor Satia also works on the Partition of British India in 1947.

Her first book, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008), won the 2009 AHA-Herbert Baxter Adams Book Prize, the 2009 AHA-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award, and the 2010 Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies Book Prize. Her second book, Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (Penguin Press, 2018), uses the gun industry as a window onto the relationship between wars of imperial conquest and the industrial revolution, focusing on the ethical dilemmas faced by the Galton family, Quakers who owned Britain’s largest gun-making firm. Her work has also appeared in the American Historical Review, Past and Present, Technology and Culture, Humanity, Annales, History Workshop Journal, edited volumes across a range of fields (e.g. environmental history, Middle Eastern history, the Indian Ocean world, British politics, aerospatial theory, humanitarianism), and mainstream media (the Financial Times, the Nation, Times Literary Supplement, the Washington Post, Time Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Aeon, the TribuneSlate.com, CNN.com, and other sites).

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