Edge of Empire: Conquest and Collecting on the Eastern Frontiers of the British Empire

By Maya Jasanoff

Talented young historian Maya Jasanoff tells an alternative history of the British Empire, one that brings us the very personal stories of those British people who found themselves on the edges of Empire. Instead of a story of ‘conquest’, she brings us startling and fascinating stories of cross-cultural exchange.

A Palladian mansion filled with western art in the centre of old Calcutta, the Mughal Emperor’s letters in an archive in the French Alps, the names of Italian adventurers scratched into the walls of Egyptian temples. In this imaginative book, Maya Jasanoff delves into the stories behind artefacts like these to uncover the lives of collectors in India and Egypt who lived on the frontiers of European empire. Edge of Empire traces their exploits to tell an intimate history of imperialism.

Written and researched on four continents, Edge of Empire tells a story about the making of European empires, one that breaks away from the grand narratives of power, exploitation, and resistance, to delve into the personal dimensions of imperialism. She asks what people brought to imperial frontiers and what they took away, and what motives drove them, whether ambition, opportunism, curiosity, or greed. This rich and compelling book enters a world where people lived, loved, and died, and identified with each other across cultures a lot more than our prejudices about ‘Empire’ might suggest.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 15 Aug 2005
Pages: 416
ISBN: 978-0-00-718009-7
Maya Jasanoff is Coolidge Professor of history at Harvard University. Her first book, Edge of Empire, was awarded the 2005 Duff Cooper Prize and was a book of the year selection in numerous publications including the Economist, Guardian and Sunday Times. Her second, Liberty’s Exiles was shortlisted for the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize (now Baillie Gifford). Her third book, The Dawn Watch, won the 2018 Cundill Prize –the richest non-fiction historical literature prize in the world – and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Biography Prize.A 2013 Guggenheim Fellow, Jasanoff won the prestigious 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize for Non-Fiction. Her essays and reviews appear frequently in publications including The Guardian, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books.

'This is a very clever and wonderfully researched and written book which illumines French as well as British imperial experience, artifacts and culture, and which looks at all the actors involved in a vivid and nuanced fashion. An original new voice' Linda Colley -

”'This is an extraordinary debut. Maya Jasanoff is one of the most exciting historians to emerge in years. Her crackling prose and outstanding research have resulted in a ground-breaking book. Edge of Empire is a must-read.” - Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire