Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

Selling Empire

India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600–1830

Jonathan Eacott

Cloth: 978-1-4696-2230-9 ($45.00)
Paper: 978-1-4696-3617-7 ($30.00)

Copyright 2016
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Co-Winner, Bentley Book Prize, World History Association (2017)

Linking four continents over three centuries, Selling Empire demonstrates the centrality of India--both as an idea and a place—to the making of a global British imperial system. In the seventeenth century, Britain was economically, politically, and militarily weaker than India, but Britons increasingly made use of India's strengths to build their own empire in both America and Asia. Early English colonial promoters first envisioned America as a potential India, hoping that the nascent Atlantic colonies could produce Asian raw materials. When this vision failed to materialize, Britain's circulation of Indian manufactured goods—from umbrellas to cottons--to Africa, Europe, and America then established an empire of goods and the supposed good of empire.

Eacott recasts the British empire's chronology and geography by situating the development of consumer culture, the American Revolution, and British industrialization in the commercial intersections linking the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. From the seventeenth into the nineteenth century and beyond, the evolving networks, ideas, and fashions that bound India, Britain, and America shaped persisting global structures of economic and cultural interdependence.

About the Author

Jonathan Eacott is associate professor of history at the University of California, Riverside.


Dismantling the old notion of a swing to the east (India) after the American Revolution in favor of an earlier imperial system, Selling Empire will come to stand as one of the most articulate arguments about the integrated nature of Britain’s global empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

--Tillman Nechtman, Skidmore College

Engagingly written, deeply researched, and cleverly conceived, Selling Empire reveals just how much ‘India’ — as an abstract idea, a political issue, and a wide range of commodities, from calicoes to elephants—circulated through the Atlantic world. Eacott’s work is a shining exemplar of early America’s global turn and will no doubt prove to be critical reading for those interested in colonial and imperial history as well as early modern political and material culture.

--Philip J. Stern, Duke University

Recognizing the significance of ideas as well as goods, Selling Empire demonstrates how the British experience in India furthered imperial expansion in America. In this wide-ranging study that connects imperial ambitions in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Eacott analyzes the global development of the British empire in a fresh way.

--Kariann Akemi Yokota, University of Colorado Denver