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Nineteenth-century British writers were deeply concerned about their place in the larger world. Literature of the period captures the contradictory ambitions and ambivalence, rationalizations and protests, fears and emotions that fueled imaginary and actual empires. Language, image, characters, and plots are shaped by a hunger for adventure, by economic greed and desperation that drove men and women to emigrate, by the ethical questions that arose when one group laid claim to the resources and labor of land and people across the globe, and by the threat of reverse invasion if the colonized people did what the British themselves had done. Throughout the century writers and readers explored these issues-whether gingerly, assertively, fearfully, or violently-in poetry, fiction, and theatre. As we, whether as national citizens or global citizens, consider our roles in world politics today, the recent past provides a counter-narrative to our current situation but also an angle from which to consider how the stories people and a nation tell themselves did and do shape readers' imagination and opinions.