British historians influenced the empire in critical ways. Time's Monster shows how the modern vision of history as a form of ethics empowered historians to shape policy, while history became a justification for domination. Later, alternative notions of history revised the discipline's ethics and effects, reminding us that ideas have consequences.
How did the British get to be so blinkered about their own history? In Time’s Monster: How History Makes History , a probing new book, the Stanford professor Priya Satia argues that British views of empire remain 'hostage to myth' partly because historians made them so ... Time’s Monster joins a dense body of scholarship analyzing liberal justifications for empire ... Historians, whether mythmaking or record-righting, draw on sources that are themselves shaped by historical pressures—and these, too, played a role in distorting the picture of the imperial past ... Satia joins Gopal, Hirsch, and a growing number of historians—many of them scholars of color—in trying to change [the colonial/imperial] storyline ... Satia, taking inspiration from the work of Urdu poets, calls on historians to step away from narratives of moral progress and seek fresh ways to connect the present and the past.
Time’s Monster is a coruscating and important reworking of the relationship between history, historians and empire. It is also a frustrating account. The thread running through Time’s Monster is the need to understand the catastrophic consequences of rooting ethical claims in particular historical narratives ... Time’s Monster helps lay bare the discipline of history’s 'collusion in empire'. It also reveals, however, perhaps unwittingly, what remains valuable in Enlightenment ideas of history and of humanity.
In Time’s Monster ... Stanford University historian Priya Satia goes further and suggests that the historical discipline itself has evolved into 'an instrument of redemption for the victims of modern history' ... Satia delivers volley after volley of ferocious attacks on 'the self-pitying liberal view of empire' ... Satia’s book raises an important question about whether historians are prosecutors and history is a court in which judgments should be passed on accused individuals.