During the tumultuous closing decades of the nineteenth century, as the prospect of democracy loomed and as intensified global economic and strategic competition reshaped the political imagination, British thinkers grappled with the question of how best to organize the empire. Many found an answer to the anxieties of the age in the idea of Greater Britain, a union of the United Kingdom and its settler colonies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and southern Africa.
InThe Idea of Greater Britain, Duncan Bell analyzes this fertile yet neglected debate, examining how a wide range of thinkers conceived of this vast "Anglo-Saxon" political community. Their proposals ranged from the fantastically ambitious--creating a globe-spanning nation-state--to the practical and mundane--reinforcing existing ties between the colonies and Britain. But all of these ideas were motivated by the disquiet generated by democracy, by challenges to British global supremacy, and by new possibilities for global cooperation and communication that anticipated today's globalization debates. Exploring attitudes toward the state, race, space, nationality, and empire, as well as highlighting the vital theoretical functions played by visions of Greece, Rome, and the United States, Bell illuminates important aspects of late-Victorian political thought and intellectual life.