Divide et Impera: Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of British Imperialism

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This paper shifts the axis of analysis of imperialism and argues that the classic ‘divide and rule’ policy was implemented in a horizontal and vertical dimension simultaneously. By theorising Georg Simmel’s classic triadic configurations, this paper explores whether in the British imperial strategy a divisive mechanism was set up within which inter-communal problems were exploited or an advantage was gained simply by being a tertius gaudens, i.e. a rejoicing third. This paper argues that the British Empire deliberately introduced a ‘divide and rule’ structure in order to gain an advantage in existing or emerging hostilities between the local communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-231
Number of pages11
JournalCritique: journal of socialist theory
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Imperialism
  • Divide and Rule
  • Nationalism
  • Resistance
  • Collaboration
  • Path Dependency


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