David Kenneth Fieldhouse

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David Kenneth Fieldhouse, FBA (born 7 June 1925) is a prominent historian of the British Empire who between 1981 and 1992 held the Vere Harmsworth Professorship of Imperial and Naval History at the University of Cambridge. Arguably the world's "leading imperial economic historian"[1] he is most well known for his book, Economics and Empire, 1830-1914 (1973), which offered a trenchant account of how political and strategic factors, rather than economic impulses, comprised the primary motors of European imperial expansion.

Fieldhouse is a critic of the theories of imperialism put forward in the early 20th century by John A. Hobson and Lenin. He argues that they used superficial arguments and weak evidence. Fieldhouse says that the "obvious driving force of British expansion since 1870" came from explorers, missionaries, engineers, and empire-minded politicians. They had little interest in financial investments. Hobson's approach was to say that faceless financiers manipulated everyone else. "The final determination rests with the financial power."[2] Lenin made the argument that capitalism was in its last stages and had been taken over by monopolists. They were no longer dynamic and sought to maintain profits by even more intensive exploitation of protected markets. Fieldhouse rejects these arguments as unfounded speculation.[3]

During the course of his career he held academic posts at the University of Canterbury, Oxford University, and Cambridge University. Upon his retirement from Cambridge in 1992 his former students and colleagues published a festschrift entitled, Managing the Business of Empire: Essays in Honour of David Fieldhouse.

Fieldhouse remains an active Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • "'Imperialism': An Historiographical Revision1." Economic History Review (1961) 14#2 pp: 187-209. online
  • Colonial Empires: A Comparative Survey from the Eighteenth Century (1966)
  • Economics and Empire, 1830-1914 (1973)
  • Colonialism, 1870-1945: An Introduction (1981)
  • "Can Humpty‐Dumpty be put together again? Imperial history in the 1980s." The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (1984) 12#2 pp: 9-23. online
  • Black Africa, 1945-80: Economic Decolonization & Arrested Development (1986)
  • Merchant Capital and Economic Decolonization: The United Africa Company, 1929-87 (1994)
  • The West and the Third World: Trade, Colonialism, Dependence and Development (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999)
  • Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914-1958 (2006)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Burroughs, 'David Fieldhouse and the Business of Empire', in Peter Burroughs and A. J. Stockwell, eds., Managing the Business of Empire: Essays in Honour of David Fieldhouse (London, 1998), p. 7
  2. ^ J. A. Hobson (1902). Imperialism: A Study. p. 59. 
  3. ^ David K. Fieldhouse, "'Imperialism': An Historiographical Revision." Economic History Review 14#2 (1961): 187-209. in JSTOR

Further reading[edit]

  • Howe, Stephen. "David Fieldhouse and ‘Imperialism’: some historiographical revisions." Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (1998) 26#2 pp: 213-232. online

External links[edit]

  • [1] Personal webpage at Jesus College, Cambridge.