How Does History Connect Westborough and India?: Introduction

Imperial Federation, map of the world showing the extent of the British Empire in 1886
(Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library, call number: G5730 1886.C6,

Introduction: Empire

Throughout history the world has been created and shaped by empires, and the British Empire was the most powerful and most significant in the modern era. From the beginning of the seventeenth to the middle of the twentieth century, the British Empire wielded both its powerful navy and its command of commercial shipping to create and control colonies across the globe. These efforts ultimately resulted in the creation of the largest empire in world history. At its height in 1921, the British Empire ruled over twenty-three percent of the world’s landmass on all seven continents and governed over twenty percent of the world’s population.

Both Westborough (as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in North America) and India (which during colonial rule included the contemporary states of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Burma) fell under British control at one point in their history. This common legacy created similarities in the way we think about and experience the world, even though the methods the British used to conquer each area and the ensuing life under their control were quite different. And because Great Britain ruled over both colonies at the same time, decisions it made about one colony on one side of the world often affected the other. What follows is one way to tell the story of how two places—one, a small town in North America, and the other, a very big country in Central Asia—are connected by history.

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Read the next post in the series: Charters and Private Enterprise.

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There are many ways to answer the question “How does history connect Westborough and India?,” but I chose to focus on the fact that both Westborough and India were once part of the British Empire. I encourage you to find others for yourself, and you can start your exploration by reading one or more of the books that follow on this web page.

I also encourage you to engage with the issues raised by these series of posts by commenting at the bottom of them, emailing me, or by stopping in the Westborough Center for History and Culture at the Westborough Public Library to chat.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

Westborough-India Series – Works Consulted

Beckert, Sven. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Vintage Books, 2014.

Bunker, Nick. An Empire on the Edge. New York: Vintage Books, 2014.

Collingham, Lizzie. Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World. New York: Basic Books, 2017.

Darwin, John. Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2012.

Eacott, Jonathan. Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600-1830. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 2016.

Frankopan, Peter. Silk Roads: A New History of the World. New York: Vintage Books, 2015.

Freeman, Joshua B. Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

Schama, Simon. Civilizations. PBS television series, 2018.

Vaver, Anthony. The Rebellion Begins: Westborough and the Start of the American Revolution. Westborough, MA: Pickpocket Publishing, 2017.

Wilson, Jon. The Chaos of Empire: The British Raj and the Conquest of India. New York: Public Affairs, 2016.


Westborough-India Connection Reading List

The following books are all available through the Westborough Public Library.

Global Trade and the British Empire

  • The Silk Roads : a new history of the world / Peter Frankopan (909-FRANKOPAN)
  • The decline and fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 / Piers Brendon (909.097-BRENDON)
  • The rule of empires : those who built them, those who endured them, and why they always fall / Timothy H. Parsons (325.3-PARSONS)
  • Behemoth : a history of the factory and the making of the modern world / Joshua B. Freeman (338.64409 FREEMAN)
  • Empire of things : how we became a world of consumers, from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first / Frank Trentmann (339.4709 TRENTMANN)
  • Empire of cotton : a global history / Sven Beckert (338.47 BECKERT)
  • Selling empire : India in the making of Britain and America, 1600-1830 / Jonathan Eacott (382.609 EACOTT)
  • Captives : Britain, Empire and the world, 1600-1850 / Linda Colley (325.36 COLLEY)
  • Cities of empire : the British colonies and the creation of the urban world / Tristram Hunt (941 HUNT)
  • The rise and fall of the British Empire / Lawrence James (909.0971 JAMES)
  • The taste of empire: how Britain’s quest for food shaped the modern world / Lizzie Collingham (338.1941 COLLING)
  • A thirst for empire: how tea shaped the modern world / Erika Rappaport (641.3372 RAPPAPORT)
  • A social history of tea: tea’s influence on commerce, culture, & community / Jane Pettigrew (On order as of 11/19/18)

British Indian History

  • Gandhi : the man, his people, and the empire / Rajmohan Gandhi. (B-GANDHI-GAN)
  • Gandhi & Churchill : the epic rivalry that destroyed an empire and forged our age / Arthur Herman (325.54-HERMAN)
  • Gandhi and the unspeakable : his final experiment with truth / James W. Douglass (B-GANDHI-DOU)
  • Indira : the life of Indira Nehru Gandhi / Katherine Frank (B-GANDHI-FRA)
  • Great soul : Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India / Joseph Lelyveld (B-GANDHI-LEL)
  • Daughter of empire : my life as a Mountbatten / Lady Pamela Hicks (B-HICKS-HIC)
  • Indian summer : the secret history of the end of an empire / Alex von Tunzelmann (954.03-VON TUNZELMANN)
  • A traveller’s history of India / SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda (954-TAMMITA)
  • Ants among elephants : an untouchable family and the making of modern India / Sujatha Gidla (305.568-GIDLA)
  • India conquered : Britain’s Raj and the chaos of empire / Jon Wilson (382 WILSON)
  • Inglorious empire : What the British did to India / Shashi Tharoor (943.03 THAROOR)
  • The chaos of empire : the British Raj and the conquest of India / Jon Wilson (954.03 WILSON)
  • Women of the Raj : the mothers, wives, and daughters of the British Empire in India / Margaret MacMillan (954 MACMILLAN)
  • Raj : the making and unmaking of British India / Lawrence James (954.03 JAMES)
  • An era of darkness : the British empire In India / Shashi Tharoor (954.03 THAROOR)

British American History

  • An empire on the edge : how Britain came to fight America / Nick Bunker (973.3-BUNKER)
  • The rebellion begins : Westborough and the start of the American Revolution / by Anthony Vaver (973.2 VAVER)
  • Independence lost : lives on the edge of the American Revolution / Kathleen DuVal (973.3-DUVAL)
  • The dawn of innovation : the first American Industrial Revolution / Charles R. Morris ; illustrations by J.E. Morris (338.0973-MORRIS)
  • The first American revolution : before Lexington and Concord / Ray Raphael (973.3-RAPHAEL)
  • The spirit of 74 : how the American Revolution began / Ray Raphael and Marie Raphael (973.31-RAPHAEL)
  • American tempest : how the Boston Tea Party sparked a revolution / Harlow Giles Unger (973.3-UNGER)
  • Paul Revere’s ride / David Hackett Fischer (973.3-FISCHER)
  • The shoemaker and the tea party : memory and the American Revolution / Alfred F. Young (973.3-YOUNG)
  • Rebecca Dickinson : independence for a New England woman / Marla R. Miller (B-DICKINSON-MIL)
  • The unknown American Revolution : the unruly birth of democracy and the struggle to create America / Gary B. Nash (973.3-NASH)
  • American creation : triumphs and tragedies at the founding of the republic / Joseph J. Ellis (973.3-ELLIS)
  • The idea of America : reflections on the birth of the United States / Gordon S. Wood (973.3-WOOD)
  • A struggle for power : the American revolution / Theodore Draper (973.3-DRAPER)
  • Revolutionary summer : the birth of American independence / by Joseph J. Ellis (973.3-ELLIS)
  • 1776 / David McCullough (973.3-MCCULLOUGH)
  • Founding myths : stories that hide our patriotic past / Ray Raphael (973.3-RAPHAEL)
  • A people’s history of the American Revolution : how common people shaped the fight for independence / Ray Raphael (973.3092-RAPHAEL)
  • Revolutionary mothers : women in the struggle for America’s independence / Carol Berkin (973.3-BERKIN)
  • American heroes : profiles of men and women who shaped early America / Edmund S. Morgan (973.2-MORGAN)
  • Independence : the tangled roots of the American Revolution / Thomas P. Slaughter (973.311-SLAUGHTER)
  • Revolutionary characters : what made the founders different / Gordon S. Wood (973.3-WOOD)
  • The marketplace of revolution : how consumer politics shaped American independence (973.31-BREEN)
  • Revolutionary founders : rebels, radicals, and reformers in the making of the nation / edited by Alfred F. Young, Gary B. Nash, and Ray Raphael (973.3-REVOLUTIONARY)
  • Revolutionaries : a new history of the invention of America / by Jack Rakove (973.3-RAKOVE)
  • Slave nation : how slavery united the colonies and sparked the American Revolution / Alfred W. Blumrosen and Ruth G. Blumrosen (973.31-BLUMROSEN)
  • Founding mothers : the women who raised our nation / Cokie Roberts (973.3-ROBERTS)
  • The founders and finance : how Hamilton, Gallatin, and other immigrants forged a new economy / Thomas K. McCraw (330.973-MCCRAW)
  • Portrait of a woman in silk : hidden histories of the British Atlantic world / Zara Anishanslin (970.03 ANISHANSLIN)

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Read the next post in the series: Charters and Private Enterprise.

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