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Abstract

How to write about the many, diverse places that constituted the British Empire in the same text; how to conceive of both the differences and the connections between Britain and its various colonies? These have been perennial problems for imperial historians. This article begins by examining the concept of ‘core’ and ‘periphery’, and the various ways that it has been employed within the tradition of British imperial history. It then turns to concepts such as networks, webs and circuits, which are characteristic of the ‘new’ imperial history. It suggests that these newer concepts are useful in allowing the social and cultural, as well as the economic, histories of Britain and its colonies to be conceived as more fluidly and reciprocally interrelated. The article concludes by suggesting that these spatial concepts could usefully be taken further, through an explicit recognition of the multiple trajectories that define any space and place.