Covering the period between the sixteenth century and the Age of Revolutions, this book analyzes the trajectory of the five western European “seaborne” empires: the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the British, and the Dutch. While the undertaking is ambitious, Gabriel Paquette proves up to the task. Based on an in-depth command of the secondary literature, The European Seaborne Empires comprehensively compares these five imperial formations' repertoires of power, violence, and forms of exploitation. The analysis benefits significantly from the fact that Paquette is himself an accomplished expert in the history of western Europe. Evidence from each empire is intertwined throughout the book—an interpretive strategy that makes this work particularly rich in comparisons and pertinent insights.

Paquette's volume begins by stressing that “the European seaborne empires were dwarfed in scope and scale by the terrestrial empires of Eurasia until the dawn of...

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