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Thursday, May 03, 2018

Book Review: Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution by Priya Satia

Book Review
Empire of Guns:
The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution 
by Priya Satia
Published April 10th, 2018
Penguin Random House Publishing

  If I could, I'd fill this blog with reviews of newly written history books, but that is a tall order. Fields like "18th century European history" don't pull much shelf-space at the remaining physical book stores, and there isn't a ton of popular interest in anything older than the American Civil War with book buying audience in the United States, period.   When I read about Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution, I thought, "This is a new book about 18th century European history- I simply must track down a copy."  I finally found an Ebook through the Los Angeles Public Library.  The Ebook appeared intimidating with a near 600 page length, but about 180 of those pages were the end notes and index.  The end notes aren't included in the text of the Ebook, so it reads as an incredibly detailed but none the less non academic  take on her subject.

  Empire of Guns takes heavy cues from John Brewer's 1989 classic in the field of 18th century history, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State 1688-1783.  Satia doesn't hide the ball, Sinews is cited in her very first footnote.  She and her publishers are no doubt relying on the lack of familiarity with Sinews among the contemporary American audience for books about gun control.  Like Brewer, her thesis explicitly relies on documenting the close ties between gun manufacturers and the British Empire.  Unlike Brewer,  Satia extends her analysis all the way up the present day and seems to be making the point that the United States needs to move away from his history by limiting the right of Americans to buy guns.

  That, of course, is a controversial thesis, and it's possible to take issue with some of her analysis.  For example, she dismisses the seminal United States Supreme Court decision in Heller, which held that the 2nd amendment contained a personal right to own guns, in a sentence.  I wouldn't credit those who call Empire of Guns overlong or too dense for general readers, unless they are general readers uninterested in 18th century history. 

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