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Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy, 1688–1989
Historians seldom consider the metanarratives within which academic articles, monographs, models and analyses must eventually become embedded, if they are to inform public debate in modern societies. [*] Yet, however micro the problems they tackle, their findings can always be situated within some ‘greater story’.  Since the Second World War, the central preoccupation of our national politics has been with the search for a post-imperial identity. After prolonged discussion, and at the very end of the twentieth century, the British seem to be on their way to recovering a cultural consciousness and reconstructing an economic system reconnected to active participation in intra-European trade, capital movements and labour markets.  To address the large problem concerned with the benefits and the costs that flowed from the realms, a move away from Europe into more than three centuries of engagement with Empire, seems opportune. Furthermore, the theme resonates beyond European into global history because a majority of intellectuals from Asia, Africa and Southern America continue to claim that the relative backwardness of their economies compared to the West can—to some degree—be imputed to the malign effects of imperialism. They suggest that economic relations with Britain—and with other European powers—operated to retard the development of their countries but, at the same time, promoted the progress of Europe’s imperial and neo-imperial economies. 
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