Empire of Guns

Empire of Guns
The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution
Priya Satia
Price: £
  • Hardback
3 May 2018
  • History
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The revolutionary new understanding of how the gun trade facilitated the expansion of the British Empire and changed the course of world history.

We have long understood the Industrial Revolution as a triumphant story of innovation and technology. Empire of Guns, is a rich and ambitious new book by award-winning historian Priya Satia, which upends this conventional wisdom by placing war and Britain’s prosperous gun trade at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the state’s imperial expansion.

Satia brings to life this bustling industrial society with the story of a scandal: Samuel Galton of Birmingham, one of Britain’s most prominent gun makers, was condemned by his fellow Quakers that his profession violated their pacifist principles. In his fervent self-defence, Galton argued that the state’s heavy reliance on industry for all of its war needs meant that every member of the British industrial economy is implicated in Britain’s near-constant state of war. 

Empire of Guns uses the story of Galton and the gun trade across the outermost edges of the British empire to illuminate the nation’s emergence as a global superpower, the roots of the state’s role in economic development, and the origins of our era’s debates about gun control and the “military-industrial complex” — that thorny partnership of government, the economy, and the military. Through Satia’s eyes, we acquire a radically new understanding of this critical historical moment and all that followed from it. 


‘A richly researched and probing historical narrative that challenges our understanding of the engines that drove Britain’s industrial revolution. With this book, Priya Satia… affirms her place as a deeply captivating and thought-provoking historian’ Caroline Elkins, Pulitzer Prize winner for Imperial Reckoning

‘An important revisionist account of the industrial revolution… a revelatory book’ Sven Beckert, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Empire of Cotton

'A fascinating and important glimpse into how violence fueled the industrial revolution, Priya Satia’s book stuns with deep scholarship and sparkling prose' Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

'Empire of Guns boldly uncovers a history of modern violence and its central role in political, economic, and technological progress. As unsettling as it is bracing, it radically deepens our understanding of the ‘iron cage’ of modernity' Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger

Priya Satia

About Priya Satia

Priya Satia is a professor of British History at Stanford University. She is the author of Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East published by Oxford University Press and her writing has appeared in the TLS, Slate, the Financial Times and Huffington Post, among other publications. She received a MSc in Development Studies (Economics) at the London School of Economincs and a PhD in History at the University of California, Berkeley.