Old order changeth

Linked with Eric Hobsbawm – England (link will work at September 01, 2007).

Published on Business Standard, BOOKMARK, New Delhi August 04, 2007.

Excerpts: Hobsbawm studies the relation between empires and their subjects in a rapidly globalised world

… Moreover, the full-armed power of governments is often incapable of maintaining unchallenged control of their territory. For instance, take Sri Lanka, Colombia, the Gaza strip and the West Bank, or Pakistan, where complete control of the state is no longer possible. Or, for that matter take the Naxal-infested areas or Jharkhand or some parts of our troubled North east. This may be happening because there is a greater awareness among the people of perceived wrongs, of what is their due; or it could be because the state is overextended. But whatever, governance has become so much more difficult. No longer can the state call all the shots.


In these circumstances there is no possibility of a return to the imperial past, ‘let alone the prospect of a lasting global hegemony, unprecedented in history, by a single state, however great its military force … The age of empires is dead. We shall have to find another way of organizing the globalised world of the 21st century. And so far we have not found it’.

With Hobsbawm, everything merges into everything else: history into politics, into economics and sociology and much else besides. It’s the same here. In a sense, this is a study of the relation between empires and their subjects in a rapidly globalised world. The relation is always complex, perhaps will become even more so now. But there is a point that we (especially nationalist historians) need to bear in mind on the 60th anniversary of independence: ‘What brought empires to an end is rarely the revolt of their subject peoples alone’. (full text).

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