Selling Empire

India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600-1830

By Jonathan Eacott

472 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, 7 figs, notes, index

Not for sale in South Asia

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3617-7
    Published: April 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2231-6
    Published: February 2016

Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press

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Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press

Awards & distinctions

2017 Bentley Book Prize, World History Association

2017 Bentley Book Prize, World History Association

Linking four continents over three centuries, Selling Empire demonstrates the centrality of India--both as an idea and a place--to the making of a global British imperial system. In the seventeenth century, Britain was economically, politically, and militarily weaker than India, but Britons increasingly made use of India’s strengths to build their own empire in both America and Asia. Early English colonial promoters first envisioned America as a potential India, hoping that the nascent Atlantic colonies could produce Asian raw materials. When this vision failed to materialize, Britain’s circulation of Indian manufactured goods--from umbrellas to cottons--to Africa, Europe, and America then established an empire of goods and the supposed good of empire.

Eacott recasts the British empire's chronology and geography by situating the development of consumer culture, the American Revolution, and British industrialization in the commercial intersections linking the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. From the seventeenth into the nineteenth century and beyond, the evolving networks, ideas, and fashions that bound India, Britain, and America shaped persisting global structures of economic and cultural interdependence.

About the Author

Jonathan Eacott is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Riverside.
For more information about Jonathan Eacott, visit the Author Page.


“A fascinating foray into the entangled histories of consumption and production in India, colonial America, and Britain.”--Diplomatic History

“A work of extraordinary scope based upon a remarkable amount of archival and library research. . . . Reveal[s] fresh ways of thinking about the growth of the international economy, as well as the interconnected histories of Britain, India, and the United States.”--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Should rank high on the required reading lists of all those interested in the history of the early modern world, economics, material culture, early America, and the British Empire.”--William and Mary Quarterly

“Supplies the reader, in every paragraph on every page, with a way of thinking between and across the scales of historical experience. Not one detail is insignificant.”--Winterthur Portfolio

"Engagingly written, deeply researched, and cleverly conceived, Selling Empire reveals just how much 'India'—as an abstract idea, a political issue, and a wide range of commodities, from calicoes to elephants—circulated through the Atlantic world. Eacott's work is a shining exemplar of early America’s global turn and will no doubt prove to be critical reading for those interested in colonial and imperial history as well as early modern political and material culture."--Philip J. Stern, Duke University

"Recognizing the significance of ideas as well as goods, Selling Empire demonstrates how the British experience in India furthered imperial expansion in America. In this wide-ranging study that connects imperial ambitions in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Eacott analyzes the global development of the British empire in a fresh way."--Kariann Akemi Yokota, University of Colorado Denver