Who were the first people to invent a world-historical mission for the British Empire? And what were the constituencies behind the development of the imperialistic thinking in mid-Victorian England? These questions are vital for understanding where the New Imperialism of the late nineteenth century came from. Empire as the Triumph of Theory takes as its sample the more than two hundred earliest members of the first major pro-imperial pressure group: the Colonial Society (founded in 1868, it is now the Royal Commonwealth Society).
The book goes on to a careful and well-written tour of the different parts of the Victorian world, putting the founders of the Colonial society into their social contexts. Empire as the Triumph of Theory concludes that imperialism was developed less by investors and office holders than by people who, whatever their other activities, had written books or articles about the cultures of the world. Victorian activities around the globe were multitudinous and varied, and general ideas about England's imperial mission were, in fact, constructed by members of the Colonial Society, in order to make sense out of information flowing in from this teeming world.
This is the first work to explore the social and intellectual origins of the Colonial Society. It brings the mid-Victorians to life, and should become a standard work for specialists on imperialism.