The best 32 Colonialism & Imperialism books

The impact of Colonialism & Imperialism on societies and cultures is profound, shaping history and contemporary issues. Our book list delves into these complexities, offering a nuanced perspective for a comprehensive grasp of the subject.

Explore our collection to unravel the layers of this crucial topic. Ready to expand your knowledge and gain fresh insights? Start exploring these enlightening reads now!

The best 32 Colonialism & Imperialism books
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1
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James

The Black Jacobins

C.L.R. James
Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
4.5 (84 ratings)
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What's The Black Jacobins about?

The Black Jacobins (1938) traces the remarkable history of the revolution in the French colony of San Domingo (modern day Haiti). It describes the events that helped the revolution become the first successful slave rebellion in history.

In particular, The Black Jacobins views the events through the prism of the revolution’s greatest figure, Toussaint L’Ouverture. It shows how he, a former slave who was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, successfully defeated the European empires and helped to destroy the brutal practice of slavery in San Domingo.

Who should read The Black Jacobins?

  • Students of history and postcolonial studies
  • Anyone who wants to understand why people revolt
  • Anyone interested in how political ideas can change the world

2
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Orientalism by Edward W. Said

Orientalism

Edward W. Said
Western Conceptions of the Orient
4.0 (200 ratings)
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What's Orientalism about?

Orientalism (1978) shines a light on the often unquestioned assumptions about Eastern civilizations that are persistently prevalent in the West. By unearthing and analyzing the West’s biases, Edward Said aims to undermine Orientalism’s influence on how the West perceives and interacts with the East.

Who should read Orientalism?

  • Anyone fascinated by non-Western civilizations
  • Anyone curious about the origins of modern international politics
  • Anyone interested in the history of colonialism and its remaining traces today

3
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Southern Theory by Raewyn Connell

Southern Theory

Raewyn Connell
The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science
4.0 (46 ratings)
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What's Southern Theory about?

In Southern Theory (2007), sociologist Raewyn Connell investigates the emergence of the social sciences in the context of Western imperialism. She explains how sociological knowledge and theory was and is primarily produced from the perspective of the colonizers, and not the colonized.

Who should read Southern Theory?

  • Sociology and humanities students
  • Anyone interested in globalization and postcolonialism
  • People interested in international politics

4
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin

A Peace to End All Peace

David Fromkin
The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and Creation of the Modern Middle East
4.5 (275 ratings)
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What's A Peace to End All Peace about?

The Middle East today is a hotbed of violence and war. Whether the civil war in Syria or the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict, peace in the region seems a far-off dream. Yet how did the Middle East become so unstable? In A Peace to End All Peace (1989), you’ll learn that European colonial ambitions during World War I were the catalyst that led to today’s modern crises.

Who should read A Peace to End All Peace?

  • Anyone interested in understanding the Middle East
  • Political junkies
  • Students of history or international relations

5
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert

Empire of Cotton

Sven Beckert
A Global History
4.5 (47 ratings)
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What's Empire of Cotton about?

Empire of Cotton (2014) chronicles the long and complex history of that fluffy plant – cotton. These blinks detail how the cotton industry connected the world from Manchester, England, to rural India, while describing the incredible impact that cotton production has had on the development of economic systems.

Who should read Empire of Cotton?

  • Historians, economists and political scientists
  • People interested in the history of capitalism and globalization
  • Anyone curious about the history of their jeans and T-shirts

6
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden

Hue 1968

Mark Bowden
A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam
4.4 (59 ratings)
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What's Hue 1968 about?

The Vietnam War is remembered as one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century. At the end of 1967, the US government was assuring the public the war was almost won; by February 1968, that was no longer the case. In Hue 1968 (2017) Mark Bowden examines the battle in the city of Hue which changed the way the American public viewed the war.

Who should read Hue 1968?

  • Anyone interested in modern American history
  • Students of politics or international relations
  • Soldiers and veterans

7
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Palestine by Nur Masalha

Palestine

Nur Masalha
A Four Thousand Year History
3.9 (359 ratings)
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What's Palestine about?

Palestine (2015) chronicles the long history of the land straddling the eastern Mediterranean between modern-day Lebanon and Egypt. By compiling an impressive set of sources both ancient and modern, Nur Masalha presents a nuanced history of the region, from its roots in ancient Philistine civilization to the advent of modern Palestinian nationalism in the nineteenth century, and Israel’s founding in 1948.

Who should read Palestine?

  • Students of history or politics
  • Supporters of both Israel and Palestine looking to inform themselves on the region
  • Palestinians who’d like to learn more about the complex historical tapestry of their land

8
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: The Congo from Leopold to Kabila by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja

The Congo from Leopold to Kabila

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja
A People’s History
4.3 (79 ratings)
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What's The Congo from Leopold to Kabila about?

The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002) is the history of the Congolese democratic movement in the twentieth century. The history begins with Belgian colonial rule, working its way through Mobutu’s reign of terror, before looking at the Congo Wars and concluding with the prolific unrest still rampant at the turn of the century. This survey illuminates how exploitative external interests and internal weaknesses have hampered the Congolese democratic movement and proposes how it might still advance.

Who should read The Congo from Leopold to Kabila?

  • Curious minds interested in Congolese history and its democracy movement
  • Students of colonial and postcolonial history
  • Africans and non-Africans seeking African history as told from an insider perspective

9
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola

A History of Nigeria

Toyin Falola
4.5 (111 ratings)
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What's A History of Nigeria about?

A History of Nigeria (2008) documents the millennia-long history of the areas that make up the modern nation of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Going on an epic journey from the region’s precolonial past right up to the country’s recent transition toward democracy, the authors document the riveting history of a nation and, of course, its people – whose future looks bright.

Who should read A History of Nigeria?

  • Students of history, international relations or politics
  • Curious individuals wanting to discover the riveting story of Africa’s most populous nation
  • Nigerians – or people of Nigerian descent – who would like to learn more about the country’s history

10
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Black and British by David Olusoga

Black and British

David Olusoga
A Forgotten History
4.4 (153 ratings)
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What's Black and British about?

Black and British (2016) traces Britain’s long and complex relationship with the people of Africa and the Caribbean. Reaching all the way back to Roman Britain, when the first Africans arrived in England, the book reveals that Black people have been at the heart of British history from the very start. A major player in the transatlantic slave trade, Britain further entwined its destiny with that of the Africans it enslaved. Ultimately, David Olusoga illustrates how the story of Black Britain is the story of all of Britain. 

Who should read Black and British?

  • History buffs interested in a deeper insight into British history
  • Cultural enthusiasts eager to learn more about the African diaspora
  • Scholars interested in uncovering marginalized histories and stories

11
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Afropean by Johny Pitts

Afropean

Johny Pitts
Notes From Black Europe
4.4 (34 ratings)
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What's Afropean about?

Afropean (2020) is a travelogue tracing the hidden history and culture of Black people in Europe. Exploring cities such as Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, author Johny Pitts reveals the diversity of African-descendent communities in Europe – and shows how they are forging new identities for themselves beyond the continent’s colonialist legacy.

Who should read Afropean?

  • Young Europeans navigating questions of nationality, identity, and community
  • Backpackers, wanderers, and other travel addicts
  • People interested in Europe’s hidden Black history and culture

12
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Empire by Niall Ferguson

Empire

Niall Ferguson
How Britain Made the Modern World
4.6 (324 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Empire about?

Empire (2003) offers a compelling overview of the highs and lows of the British Empire, from its late-to-the-game beginnings in the seventeenth century to its ultimate collapse in the twentieth century. Through the many disgraces and unparalleled achievements, you’ll learn how Great Britain came to control close to a quarter of the world, and how we’re still coming to terms with this legacy.

Who should read Empire?

  • History buffs
  • Anyone interested in the legacy of colonialism
  • People curious about the world economy

13
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild

King Leopold's Ghost

Adam Hochschild
A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
4.6 (75 ratings)
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What's King Leopold's Ghost about?

King Leopold’s Ghost (1998) is the devastating story of how one man – Leopold, King of the Belgians – developed a territory comprising one-thirteenth of the African continent into his personal fiefdom. While publicizing his supposedly benevolent intentions, Leopold enslaved vast numbers of people, forcing them to harvest ivory and rubber in appalling conditions. In all, an estimated ten million Africans died while he was the King-Sovereign of the Congo. 

Who should read King Leopold's Ghost?

  • Anyone too horrified by colonialism to look away
  • Those interested in little-known histories
  • Scholars of African history

14
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Bedtime Biography: An Autobiography by M.K. Gandhi

Bedtime Biography: An Autobiography

M.K. Gandhi
The Story of My Experiments With Truth
4.4 (247 ratings)
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What's Bedtime Biography: An Autobiography about?

Narrated by Marston York

An Autobiography (First published in two volumes; Volume 1, 1927, and Volume 2, 1929) is the autobiography of one of the world’s most famous political icons – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The book traverses his rebellious childhood, his early activism in South Africa and his work for the Indian Independence Movement up until 1920, and gives insight into Gandhi’s personal philosophy and his lifelong quest for Truth.

Who should read Bedtime Biography: An Autobiography?

  • Anyone interested in Gandhi’s life and personal philosophy
  • Students of history and political science
  • People cultivating leadership skills

15
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: 1491 by Charles C. Mann

1491

Charles C. Mann
New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
4.5 (215 ratings)
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What's 1491 about?

1491 (2005) is a study of the Western Hemisphere before 1492, the year in which an Italian sailor employed by the Spanish empire first set foot in the Americas. Within a century of Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World, some of humanity’s most sophisticated cultures had all but disappeared. In 1491, Charles Mann sets out to recover their ways of life and remarkable achievements.

Who should read 1491?

  • History buffs
  • Myth-busters 
  • Americaphiles

16
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis

Founding Brothers

Joseph J. Ellis
The Revolutionary Generation
4.6 (227 ratings)
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What's Founding Brothers about?

Founding Brothers (2002) complicates and enriches our understanding of the American revolution. The men who founded America lived and worked in uncertain times. The future was far from certain, and even the truths they held to be self-evident often led to strikingly different conclusions. But they clung to one another – as friends, as rivals, and even as enemies. Together, they formed a fraternity of remarkable minds that could collectively solve the problems each of them on their own could not.

Who should read Founding Brothers?

  • History buffs
  • Americanophiles 
  • Anyone who loves stories

17
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Slouching Towards Utopia by J. Bradford DeLong

Slouching Towards Utopia

J. Bradford DeLong
An Economic History of the Twentieth Century
4.1 (44 ratings)
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What's Slouching Towards Utopia about?

Slouching Towards Utopia (2022) examines the “long century” between 1870 and 2010, during which technological progress, globalization, and the advent of social democracy opened a new horizon of human progress. Barring the horror years of World Wars I and II, humanity seemed to be on a slow, uneven crawl toward utopia. But in 2010, the tables turned. Economic progress in the Global North ground to a halt. 

Who should read Slouching Towards Utopia?

  • History buffs
  • John Maynard Keynes fans
  • Anyone wondering how the world became so unequal

18
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela
The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
4.6 (84 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom about?

Read to you by Twaambo Kapilikisha

Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom (1994) is one of the most famous autobiographies of recent times. It tells the story of his life, from his humble beginnings in the South African countryside to his work as an iconic anti-apartheid freedom fighter, and ends, after chronicling his twenty-year prison sentence, with his final victory and release.

Who should read Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom?

  • People interested in Nelson Mandela
  • Anyone curious about South African history
  • Proponents of social justice

19
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes
4.4 (278 ratings)
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What's Don Quixote about?

Don Quixote (1605) is widely regarded as the first modern novel. Its claim to fame extends beyond historical novelty. For many readers and critics, it remains the greatest novel of its kind. It tells the story of a man who becomes so enchanted by tales of chivalry that he decides to become a knight-errant – a wandering gallant in the style of Lancelot. The self-styled knight who calls himself Don Quixote and his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza get themselves into all kinds of absurd mischief, but their foolish quest ultimately brings them something precious: an immortal friendship.

Who should read Don Quixote?

  • Anyone who’s been put off by the length of Cervantes’s great novel
  • Lovers of classic literature, tall tales, and absurd adventures
  • Anyone looking to put a face to the famous names Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

20
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World by Claire Smith and Graeme K. Ward

Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World

Claire Smith and Graeme K. Ward
3.6 (153 ratings)
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What's Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World about?

Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World (2000) examines how globalization and new technologies are affecting indigenous peoples. It provides an analysis of the many opportunities and threats that globalization entails for indigenous societies, along with success stories of how indigenous activists are using technology to benefit their communities. The book’s chapters present the perspectives of 14 authors from around the world.

Who should read Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World?

  • Citizens of countries born out of colonialism interested in their nation’s history
  • Students of anthropology and archaeology
  • Curious indigenous and nonindigenous minds looking to understand our changing world

21
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mayflower

Nathaniel Philbrick
A Story of Courage, Community, and War
4.6 (41 ratings)
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What's Mayflower about?

Mayflower (2006) tells the epic story of the 1620 voyage to establish a colony of religious separatists on North American shores, and the astonishing aftermath of their fateful trip. From life-or-death struggle to peaceful coexistence with native peoples to devastating war just a half century later, it tells the unvarnished truth of the people and politics that went on to shape a nation.

Who should read Mayflower?

  • History buffs looking for new insights into a little-known chapter of America’s past
  • Epic saga lovers who crave complex stories of survival, politics, and conflict
  • Anyone curious about the real facts behind all the feel-good myths, and how they went on to shape the future of a nation

22
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Fifth Sun by Camilla Townsend

Fifth Sun

Camilla Townsend
A New History of the Aztecs
4.4 (200 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Fifth Sun about?

Fifth Sun (2019) recounts the epic rise and tragic fall of the Aztec Empire. Using powerful, firsthand accounts written by the Aztecs themselves as its source material, this Blink provides a new narrative of the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica. It is the story of a people who resisted colonization and, although defeated militarily, never fully relinquished their indigenous identity.

Who should read Fifth Sun?

  • History buffs
  • North and South Americans looking to learn about the colonization of their continents
  • Anyone looking for an inspiring tale of courageous resistance against brutal oppression

23
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: River of the Gods by Candice Millard

River of the Gods

Candice Millard
Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile
4.2 (30 ratings)
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What's River of the Gods about?

River of the Gods (2022) follows two audacious individuals as they search for the source of the world’s longest river. At the time, this was a question of mythical proportions, and one which would consume and break the men sent to answer it.

Who should read River of the Gods?

  • History buffs
  • Travel lovers
  • Anyone who grew up with navigation apps on their smartphone

24
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: The Making of Modern South Africa by Nigel Worden

The Making of Modern South Africa

Nigel Worden
The Making of Modern South Africa
4.7 (185 ratings)
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What's The Making of Modern South Africa about?

The Making of Modern South Africa (2012) traces the history of South Africa from the colonial conquests of the eighteenth century to the birth of an inclusive democracy in 1994. Along the way, it unpacks how struggles over land, natural resources, and belonging shaped the country’s development. 

Who should read The Making of Modern South Africa?

  • Historians 
  • Politics buffs
  • Anyone interested in race and equality

25
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe
3.8 (24 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Things Fall Apart about?

Things Fall Apart (1958) was the first in the African Writers Series of 350 books published between 1962 and 2003 which provided an international audience for many African writers. It tells the story of a respected leader of an Igbo community and the problems faced by the community as white men arrive and bring with them their laws and religion.

Who should read Things Fall Apart?

  • Lovers of great story-telling
  • Anthropology students interested in understanding the cultural and religious practices of the Igbo people of Nigeria
  • History buffs interested in African history and the impact of colonialism

26
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad
4.1 (45 ratings)
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What's Heart of Darkness about?

Heart of Darkness (1899) is a classic novella that explores themes of imperialism, power dynamics, and morality. It tells the story of sailor Charles Marlow, who becomes captain of a river steamboat for a Belgian ivory trade company Africa and witnesses the brutal reality of European colonialism. Marlow becomes fascinated with the mysterious ivory trader Kurtz – a mad genius who commands a trading post deep in the jungle. 

Who should read Heart of Darkness?

  • Fans of classic literature 
  • Those interested in critical perspectives on imperialism and colonialism 
  • Anyone who loves a good sailor’s yarn

27
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain
4.6 (265 ratings)
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What's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn about?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) is often considered a landmark, if controversial, work in the history of American literature. It tells the story of a young teenager who runs away from an abusive, alcoholic father by fleeing in a raft down the Mississippi River. Along the way, he befriends a man running from slavery and becomes a reluctant accomplice to a pair of con artists.

Who should read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

  • Fans of classic literature
  • People interested in stories about the antebellum South
  • Anyone who likes a good coming-of-age story

28
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: The Wager by David Grann

The Wager

David Grann
A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder
4.4 (109 ratings)
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What's The Wager about?

The Wager (2023) recounts the unbelievable-but-true story of the doomed adventure taken by those aboard the HMS Wager. This Royal Navy ship was meant to sail the world and plunder Spanish treasure, but in 1741 it was shipwrecked while trying to sail around Cape Horn. This is the story of how a crew of hundreds dwindled to just a handful of survivors.

Who should read The Wager?

  • Fans of classic seafaring tales like Moby Dick and Mutiny on the Bounty
  • People who love death-defying stories of heroic endurance
  • Those interested in historical mysteries and conspiracies

29
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe
4.6 (187 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Uncle Tom's Cabin about?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) is a compelling indictment of slavery. Describing the many trials of Uncle Tom, its long-suffering enslaved protagonist, the story reveals the horrors of America’s “peculiar institution” while showing how Christian love can triumph over evil. It played a pivotal role in the abolition of slavery and remains one of the most important American novels ever written. 

Who should read Uncle Tom's Cabin?

  • Those curious about a controversial classic
  • Christians and believers 
  • History buffs

30
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon
4.1 (16 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's The Wretched of the Earth about?

The Wretched of the Earth (2021) is a seminal work examining the psychological effects of colonialism and advocating for revolutionary struggle against racist and colonial oppression. It has profoundly influenced civil rights, anti-colonial, Black consciousness, and psychiatric reform movements globally since its publication in 1961.

Who should read The Wretched of the Earth?

  • Activists and organizers
  • Students and scholars
  • People who care about justice

31
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup
4.8 (6 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's 12 Years a Slave about?

12 Years a Slave (1853) is a harrowing tale of Northup's abduction into slavery and his fight for freedom. It's a raw account of the brutalities of slave life and an insightful documentation of the American slave trade's inhumane practices.

Who should read 12 Years a Slave?

  • History enthusiasts
  • Abolitionist supporters
  • Human rights advocates

32
Colonialism & Imperialism Books: A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

A Passage to India

E. M. Forster
3.8 (67 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's A Passage to India about?

A Passage to India explores the complex dynamics between the British colonialists and the Indian citizens in the setting of Chandrapore, a fictional city in British India. It delves into themes of friendship, culture clash, and the quest for understanding across cultural divides.

Who should read A Passage to India?

  • History enthusiasts  
  • Fans of British literature  
  • Cultural studies scholars

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Colonialism & Imperialism Books
 FAQs 

What's the best Colonialism & Imperialism book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard The Black Jacobins as the ultimate read on Colonialism & Imperialism.

What are the Top 10 Colonialism & Imperialism books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James
  • Orientalism by Edward W. Said
  • Southern Theory by Raewyn Connell
  • A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin
  • Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert
  • Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden
  • Palestine by Nur Masalha
  • The Congo from Leopold to Kabila by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja
  • A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola
  • Black and British by David Olusoga

Who are the top Colonialism & Imperialism book authors?

When it comes to Colonialism & Imperialism, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • C.L.R. James
  • Edward W. Said
  • Raewyn Connell
  • David Fromkin
  • Sven Beckert