Richards 1993

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Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire. London: Verso, 1993.

"I have found that historians have tended to confer a lot more unity on the British Empire than is justified. Most people during the nineteenth century were aware that their empire was something of a collective improvisation." (3)

"These people were painfully aware of the gaps in their knowledge and did their best to fill therm in. The filler they liked best was information. From all over the globe the British collected information about the countries they erwer adding to their map. They surveyed and they mapped. They took censuses, produced statistics. They made vast lists of birds. Then they shoved the data they had collected into a shifting series of classifications. In fact they often could do little other than collect and collate information, for any exact civil control, of the kind possible in England, was out of the question. The empire was too far away, and the bureaucrats of Empire had to be content to shuffle papers." (3)

"The civil servants of Empire pulled together so much information and wrote so many books about their experiences that today we have onlyl begun to scratch the surface of their archive. In a very real sense theirs was a paper empire: an empire built on a series of flimsy pretexts that were always becoming texts. The truth, of course, is that it was much easier to unify an archive composed of texts than to unify an empire made of territory, and that is what they did -- or at least tried to do, for most of the time they were unable to unify the knowledge they were collecting." (4)