E is our Empire
Where sun never sets;
The larger we make it
The bigger it gets.
—Mrs. Ernest Ames, An ABC, for Baby Patriots (1899)
A barrage of associated terminology attends the advance of empire, and none of it fires with exactitude. “Imperialism” usually refers to “the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan centre ruling a distant territory” (Said 1993)—that is to say, the politics, the economics, and the enabling ideology behind the promulgation of empires. “Colonialism” is generally understood as the assemblage of ways by which one nation or people imposes direct rule over another nation or people. “Colonization” refers specifically to the establishment of settler colonies in foreign lands. “Neo-colonialism,” a term coined by Kwame Nkrumah (the first president of Ghana, itself the first of Britain’s African colonies to politically decolonize), refers to that postcolonial condition by which a newly constituted (or now …