This article seeks to recast the break-up of the British Empire in the light of the longer duel between settler and native, or so-called dependent, interests over the legitimate nature of British connection. It starts from two premises. First, although “Greater Britain” was never a formal political reality, the historical construct of a homogeneous global Anglo-Saxondom attained widespread credibility in late nineteenth century British settler and Anglo-American worlds. Second, such a fact demands an examination of “Greater Britain’s” real work within the fractious politics of the vast, multipolar late British Empire. This article explains why, after 1880, public intellectuals and emerging academic historians working from Britain divided the British Empire into two parts temporally and politically and championed the self-governing colonies at the expense of the non-white, authoritarian empire. It locates an emerging moral consensus at the confluence of late Victorian policy lobbying and historical theorizing, which not only gave the world Greater Britain, but also the exclusionary policies that scholars recognize today as the global color line. It then explores the emergence of a pitched contest between proponents of an increasingly segregated British Empire and those of a more integrated and equal system. While both camps initially staked their claims as part of a broad, multisited, and contested Anglophone network that trafficked in a shared political idiom of liberty, rights, and constitutional development, the repeated betrayal of integrationists by the imperial center opened the way for more radical anticolonial activisms by the 1920s.


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pp. 785-813
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