An Interview With The Excellent Historian, Professor, and Writer Denis Judd


I posted my review of “Empire” by Denis Judd on January 5th. I conducted this interview with the author of that book, Professor Denis Judd. He was very willing and kind to allow me to ask him these questions and I truly appreciate the time he took to answer them, and very well, if I say so. Enjoy!

Nassem: What colony that you have studied gave the British the greatest return on investment?

Professor Judd: Overall the answer is the India Empire, which consisted of today’s India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. Not merely were the English (then the British) there from about 1600 to 1947/8, but the British Raj had a free hand with the economy and could also raise huge annual taxes. About 25% of British overseas investment was in the Indian Empire during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

N.-As noted in “Empire”, at one point the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Nova Scotia was considering joining the United States. Why did that not go through?

Professor Judd- I think it does not happen for two main reasons: one is that the British government from about 1840 is encouraging the growth of ‘responsible’, internal self-government in the various Canadian colonies; two, the horrific slaughter and confusion of the bitter American Civil War in the early 1860s puts off potential Canadian ‘joiners’ – and the Canadian Confederation of 1867 provides a unifying, democratic Westminster type of constitution within which all the Canadian colonies can flourish.


N.-How did the average British commoner view the Empire?

Professor Judd- With some confusion at its complexity I think, but also seeing the Empire and its economic value as a provider of jobs for British workers, a safe place for British investment, a source of vital additional manpower in any major war and, particularly in the self-governing Dominions like Canada and Australia, providing secure places where British families could settle and enjoy a higher standard of living than at home.

N.- Do you believe that the British gain more profitable trade now with the Commonwealth than they did with the Empire?

Professor Judd- I think the trade patterns are rather similar in both cases, e.g. trade with Europe was always at least as valuable as trade with the Empire, and the same is now true regarding the Commonwealth. Also it was often not commodity trading that brought the most profits but ‘invisible’ trading based on the financial expertise of the City of London (banking, insurance, overseas investment, the shipping carrying trade). That is certainly still the case.

N.-What, in your opinion, is the greatest lasting legacy of the British Empire?

Professor Judd-The English language, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and a large number of British invented or at least regulated sports like cricket, rugby, soccer, boxing, golf, tennis etc..


N.-Will you give any info on current projects you are working on? New books, the BBC History Magazine,etc…?

Professor Judd- I have recently had revised editions of some of my books, most recently my co-authored book on the Boer War, published in a new paperback editions; they include Empire, Lord Reading and George VI. Two novels that I wrote some time ago as a Prequel and Sequel to Treasure Island (The Adventures of Long John Silver and Return to Treasure Island) have been translated into several languages and are now coming out in Russian editions. I still teach a weekly class on the Empire-Commonwealth for New York University in London, review books on the Empire, get interviewed by the media and give public lectures.

N.- You do not know how much I appreciate you allowing me to do this interview with you. You are a great writer and historian and I am truly humbled to have this chance.

Professor Judd- You are very welcome Nassem. Good Luck.


Denis Judd was born in Northamptonshire in 1938. He has been Head of History, and is now Professor Emeritus of Imperial and Commonwealth History, at the London Metropolitan University. In his research, writing and broadcasting he has specialised in the British Empire and Commonwealth, especially South Africa and India. He has also written extensively on British history, on aspects of the monarchy, and among his biographies is the authorised life of the children’s author Alison Uttley.

Among his publications are Balfour and the British Empire, Radical Joe – A Life of Joseph Chamberlain, The Victorian Empire, Palmerston, Lord Reading, Edward VII, The Crimean War, Someone Has Blundered: Calamities of the British Army During the Victorian Age, The British Raj, King George V, Jawaharlal Nehru, Prince Philip, George VI, and, with Peter Slinn, The Evolution of the Modern Commonwealth, 1902-80. His major analysis of British Imperialism, Empire: The British Imperial Experience 1765 To The Present was published in March 1996 by HarperCollins, was a major bookclub choice, has now appeared in paperback and United States’ hardback and paperback editions, and has been translated. Among his latest books are The Boer War, The Lion and the Tiger: The Rise and Fall of the British Raj, and the edited Diaries of Alison Uttley.

He has written a number of other historical studies and biographies, as well as stories for children and two novels: Further Tales of little Grey Rabbit (1989 HarperCollins), Livingstone in Africa (Wayland), The Adventures of Long John Silver and Return To Treasure Island (both Michael Joseph).

He is the editor of a series of concise histories – the Traveller’s Histories – which include: France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Russia, India, Turkey, Ireland, Australia, North Africa and China. He is an Advisor to the recently established BBC History Magazine for which he writes and reviews.

He has recently been appointed a Professor to New York University at their London Campus.

(Credit to for the author photo and bio)


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