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Imperial by Design: Field Models in C. A. Bayly's Remaking the Modern World, 1900–2015

  • Antoinette Burton (a1)


Teachers of world history will welcome this book as an important addition not just to our store of knowledge about the remaking of the modern world, but to our repertoire of methods for understanding how the global emerged as a condition of colonial and postcolonial modernity. For in addition to being an attempt to explain how the global crises of the early twentieth century helped to “engender a revival of the parochial” (p. 326) in the present, C. A. Bayly's Remaking the Modern World, 1900–2015 offers a set of design principles for how to imagine that historical process through a combination of diachronic and synchronic approaches.



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1 Bayly, C. A., Remaking the Modern World, 1900–2015: Global Connections and Comparisons (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley Blackwell, 2018).

2 Hayles, N. Katherine, The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies in the 20th Century (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984), 21.

3 Sklansky, Jeffrey, “The Elusive Sovereign: New Intellectual and Social Histories of Capitalism,” Modern Intellectual History 9, no. 1 (2012): 233–48.

4 Bayly, C. A., Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), xiv.

5 Bayly, C. A., The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003).

6 Hall, Stuart with Schwarz, Bill, Familiar Stranger: A Life between Two Islands (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2017).

7 Mantena, Rama Sundari, The Origins of Modern Historiography in India: Antiquarianism and Philology, 1780–1880 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

8 See “Structures of Feeling,” Oxford Reference, (accessed February 2019).

9 See Burton, Antoinette and Kennedy, Dane, eds., How Empire Shaped Us (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).

10 Rather, the emphasis is on “global uniformities.” For a strong close reading, see Ballantyne, Tony, “Putting the Nation in Its Place? World History and C. A. Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World,” in Connected Worlds: History in Transnational Perspective, eds. Curthoys, Ann and Lake, Marilyn (Canberra, Australia: ANU E Press, 2005), 2344, esp. 34ff.

11 Karl, Rebecca E., Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002).

12 Wheel and spoke, or hub and spoke, are also popular models for business growth and social media design.

13 Darwin, John, The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830–1970 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

14 Manela, Erez, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

15 Bayly, C. A., Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830 (London: Longman, 1989).

16 Freda Harcourt, review of Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830, by Bayly, C. A., International Journal of Maritime History 2, no. 2 (1990): 281.

17 Jurgen Osterhammel, review of Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830, by Bayly, C. A., Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 36, no. 1 (1993): 91.

18 Quinn Slobodian complicates these easy moves, but the fantasy of the narrative he wants to nuance still obtains. See his Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2018).

19 Chakrabarty, Dipesh, “Provincializing Europe: Postcoloniality and the Critique of History,” Cultural Studies 6, no. 3 (1992): 337–57; the book is Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000).

20 Bhambra, Gurminder K., Connected Sociologies (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 7.

21 Krishnan, Sanjay, Reading the Global: Troubling Perspectives on Britain's Empire in Asia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 14.

22 The following lament about the lack of histories of empire in the British national school curriculum came to my attention with uncanny timing as I was writing this essay: Moni Mohsin, “Empire Shaped the World. There Is an Abyss at the Heart of Dishonest History Textbooks,” Guardian, October 30, 2016, (accessed June 20, 2019).

23 Seigel, Micol, “World History's Narrative Problem,” Hispanic American Historical Review 84, no. 3 (2004): 431–66.

24 Aydin, Cemil, “The Global Moment of the Russo-Japanese War: The Awakening of the East/Equality with the West (1905–1912),” in The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visons of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 7192.

25 “Acts of relegation” is from Sara Ahmed. See her Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006).

26 Quoted in Ford, Eileen M., “Insurgent Citizenships: Armed Rebellions and Everyday Acts of Resistance in the Global South,” in World Histories from Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750 to the Present, eds. Burton, Antoinette and Ballantyne, Tony (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 76.

27 For the best in a cadre of excellent recent work on anti-colonial disruption (and much more), see Mawani, Renisa, Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2018).

28 Povinelli, Elizabeth A., “The Will to Be Otherwise/The Effort of Endurance,” South Atlantic Quarterly 111, no. 3 (2012): 454. Thanks to Sam Frost for this reference.


Imperial by Design: Field Models in C. A. Bayly's Remaking the Modern World, 1900–2015

  • Antoinette Burton (a1)


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