Empire of Guns
The revolutionary new understanding of how the gun trade facilitated the expansion of the British Empire and changed the course of world history.
History teaches that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century the industrial revolution transformed Britain from an agricultural and artisanal economy to one dominated by industry and machine, ushering in unprecedented growth in technology and trade and putting the country at the centre of the world.
In Empire of Guns, prize-winning historian Priya Satia argues that – far from the bucolic image of cotton mills that define popular perception – the true root of economic and imperial expansion was the lucrative military contracting that enabled the country’s near-constant state of war. Through in-depth research, Satia elucidates this story through the life of prominent British gun-maker and Quaker, Samuel Galton. Reconciling the pacifist tenet of his faith with the pragmatism of the times, he argued that the inescapable profitability of conflict meant all members of an industrialised economy were irrefutably complicit in war.
Through his story, and a detailed study of the British gun trade, Satia illuminates the nation’s emergence as a global superpower, the roots of the government’s role in economic development, and the origins of our era’s debates about gun control.
Empire of Guns expertly brings to life a bustling industrial society with a human story at its heart to offer a radically new understanding of a critical historical moment and all that followed from it.
Reviews of Empire of Guns:
‘Sweeping and stimulating… An extensively researched and carefully crafted narrative… This important book helps us to look at British and United States history in an unconventional way and makes for great reading.’ BookPage
‘A strong narrative bolstered by excellent archival research… Tremendous scholarship… Satia’s detailed and fresh look at the Industrial Revolution has appeal and relevance grounded in and reaching beyond history and social science to illuminate the complexity of present-day gun-control debates.’ Booklist
‘Empire of Guns boldly uncovers a history of modern violence and its central role in political, economic, and technological progress. As unsettling as it is bracing, it radically deepens our understanding of the ‘iron cage’ of modernity’. Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger
‘A solid contribution to the history of technology and commerce, with broad implications for the present.’ Kirkus
‘How 18th-century British arms sales, the slave trade, and the Revolutionary War contributed to the mess we have today… Satia takes a historical look at the role of guns in Britain’s economic development, tracing how gunrunning became important to the British economy and how guns, in turn, ended up all around the world and played a crucial role in the perpetuation of slavery. Although this story is hundreds of years old, it has surprising and depressing relevance to [the] modern-day.’ Slate