Poverty and empire

McClure, J. (2020) Poverty and empire. In: Hitchcock, D. and McClure, J. (eds.) Routledge History of Poverty, c. 1450-1800. Series: Routledge histories. Routledge: Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY, pp. 39-59. ISBN 9781138555006 (doi:10.4324/9781315149271-3)

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Publisher's URL: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-History-of-Poverty-c14501800/Hitchcock-McClure/p/book/9781138555006


This chapter provides an overview of the ways in which the concept of poverty has played a role in the political discourse of empire. It undertakes an archaeology of poverty and its politics by providing an overview of the constitutive role of the discourse of poverty in processes of empire formation. The chapter demonstrates that complex beliefs about wealth and poverty have played a role in a range of political projects, a history that is often lost in the shadows of Max Weber. The chapter looks at the history of poverty and empire thought the lens of a historiographic tradition that seems to have fallen out of fashion, a genealogical history of political thought. The word empire derives from the Latin imperium, and is often defined in terms of the extent of possessions. Seemingly by contrast, poverty, a noun from the Latin paupertas, is defined in terms of the absence of possessions.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McClure, Dr Julia
Authors: McClure, J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Published Online:31 December 2020

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