History teaches that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century the industrial revolution transformed Britain from an agricultural and artisanal economy to one dominated by industry and machine, ushering in unprecedented growth in technology and trade and putting the country at the centre of the world.
In Empire of Guns, prize-winning historian Priya Satia argues that – far from the bucolic image of cotton mills that define popular perception – the true root of economic and imperial expansion was the lucrative military contracting that enabled the country’s near-constant state of war. Through in-depth research, Satia elucidates this story through the life of prominent British gun-maker and Quaker, Samuel Galton. Reconciling the pacifist tenet of his faith with the pragmatism of the times, he argued that the inescapable profitability of conflict meant all members of an industrialised economy were irrefutably complicit in war. Through his story, and a detailed study of the British gun trade, Satia illuminates the nation’s emergence as a global superpower, the roots of the government’s role in economic development, and the origins of our era’s debates about gun control.
Empire of Guns expertly brings to life a bustling industrial society with a human story at its heart to offer a radically new understanding of a critical historical moment and all that followed from it.
‘Professor Satia argues convincingly that the expansion of the armaments industry and the government’s role in it is inseparable from the rise of innumerable associated industries from finance to mining… Fascinating’ New York Times
‘Satia marshals an overwhelming amount of evidence to show, comprehensively, that guns had a place at the center of every conventional tale historians have so far told about the origins of the modern, industrialized world. . . . Spanning four continents and three centuries, tackling the fundamental nature of industrialization and capitalism, Empire of Guns belongs to the last decade’s resurgence in so-called ‘big history’. . . . Though not presented as a political book, the implications of Satia’s work are difficult to ignore. . . . This book leaves us with the disquieting notion that guns—whether the slow and inaccurate weapons of the eighteenth century or today’s models—do more than alternately cloak or explore human inclination towards violence. They also shape it—not just at the individual level, as we are accustomed to debating, but at the societal, even civilizational or global, level as well. ‘As we make objects, they make us’ The New Republic
‘Remarkable… by viewing the Industrial Revolution down the barrel of a gun, Satia reveals a whole new way to view the period’ History Revealed
‘Sweeping and stimulating. . . . An extensively researched and carefully crafted narrative. . . . This important book helps us to look at British and United States history in an unconventional way and makes for great reading’ BookPage
‘A solid contribution to the history of technology and commerce, with broad implications for the present’ Kirkus
‘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
‘Satia marshals an overwhelming amount of evidence to show, comprehensively, that guns had a place at the center of every conventional tale historians have so far told about the origins of modern, industrialized world. They also shape it—not just at the individual level, as we are accustomed to debating, but at the societal, even civilizational or global, level as well’ Heather Souvaine Horn The New Republic
‘A study of some three centuries leading up to 1815... focus[ing] on the gun trade.. and the moral quandaries of those deeply involved in its success’ History of War