“Yet imperialism did not have to pay to be popular. For many people it was sufficient that it was exciting.” (p. 211)
Empire: the rise and demise of the British world order and the lessons for global power is by Niall Ferguson who teaches at NYU and Oxford. I read the book right after Confusion by Stephenson, and it makes a good companion since Empire provides a well written tour of the birth and evolution of the British Empire that maps to the themes of Confusion. The Empire was born in piracy, benefited from slavery (which made possible the exploding taste for sugar), survived by evolving sophisticated economic (monetary) and bureaucratic systems, and staid popular at home by developing global communication systems. The Empire didn’t benefit the brits (except for those who emigrated), it entertained them. I should reread Innis Empire and Communications which is one of the first of the works to develop ideas about information technology determinism – the so called Toronto School. (McLuhan was Innis’ student.)
Stephenson is weaving (con-fusing) entertainment out of the birth of the British Empire. What he leaves out is the taste for sugar.
Continue reading Empire by Ferguson