In This Review

Dreamworlds of Race: Empire and the Utopian Destiny of Anglo-America
Dreamworlds of Race: Empire and the Utopian Destiny of Anglo-America
By Duncan Bell
Princeton University Press, 2020, 488 pp.

In the United Kingdom and the United States in the late nineteenth century, a multitude of thinkers advanced new and often startling visions of the future of the global order. In this masterly book, Bell explores the ideas of some of the most intriguing figures of this era, illuminating their dreams of a world-dominating Anglo-American political community united by race and empire. This is intellectual history at its best. The book builds on Bell’s earlier studies, which together offer a definitive account of the British imperial ideology and its deep entanglement with liberal political thought and cultural and racial hierarchy. The book focuses on four individuals: the American tycoon Andrew Carnegie, the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, the British editor W. T. Stead, and the British novelist H. G. Wells, who were part of a loose network of thinkers who believed that the United Kingdom and the United States would together inaugurate an era of global peace. Bell is most provocative in his account of the long tradition of Western thinking about democracy and “perpetual peace” (a notion made famous by the Enlightenment-era German philosopher Immanuel Kant), which these pre–World War I Anglo-American figures transformed into a “racial peace thesis,” revealing the intimate connections between global utopianism and racism.