Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

9/1/2013 - 8/31/2014

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The Military Economy of the 18th-Century British Imperial State

FAIN: FA-57203-13

Priya Satia
Stanford University (Stanford, CA 94305-2004)

I use the British gun industry as a window onto the relationship between 18th-century war and the industrial revolution. My hypothesis is that state demand critically stimulated an industrial mode of production and that contemporaries were alive to the tie between state and economy. I focus on the Galton firm of Birmingham, the single largest gun firm, supplying both the state and private custom--including slave traders. As Quakers, the Galtons wrestled publicly with the morality of gun-making, illuminating contemporary debates about the relationship between the complex imperial state and the economy. The gun trade’s close ties to other metallurgical and financial enterprises and its particular role in property crime (rather than as a weapon of passion) in the 18th-century culture of violence also suggest deeper ties between war and economy than are recognized. I use cultural and quantitative techniques, from representations of the gun in travel accounts to data on government purchases.

Media Coverage

On Gun Laws, We Must get the History Right (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Priya Satia
Date: 7/26/2016
Abstract: oped on Wrenn v DC

Review: 'Empire of Guns' Challenges the Role of War in Industrialization (Review)
Author(s): Jonathan Knee
Publication: New York Times
Date: 4/9/2018
Abstract: positive review of the book
URL: http://

The Hidden Link between Mass Shootings in the US and the Global Economic History of the Firearms Industry (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Priya Satia
Publication: Time
Date: 4/10/2018
Abstract: linking insights of the book to US controversy over gun rights
URL: http://

Associated Products

Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (Book)
Title: Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution
Author: Priya Satia
Editor: Emily Cunningham
Abstract: We have long understood the Industrial Revolution as a triumphant story of innovation and technology. Empire of Guns, a rich and ambitious new book by award-winning historian Priya Satia, upends this conventional wisdom by placing war and Britain’s prosperous gun trade at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the state’s imperial expansion. Satia brings to life this bustling industrial society with the story of a scandal: Samuel Galton of Birmingham, one of Britain’s most prominent gunmakers, has been condemned by his fellow Quakers, who argue that his profession violates the society’s pacifist principles. In his fervent self-defense, Galton argues that the state’s heavy reliance on industry for all of its war needs means that every member of the British industrial economy is implicated in Britain’s near-constant state of war. Empire of Guns uses the story of Galton and the gun trade, from Birmingham to the outermost edges of the British empire, to illuminate the nation’s emergence as a global superpower, the roots of the state’s role in economic development, and the origins of our era’s debates about gun control and the “military-industrial complex” — that thorny partnership of government, the economy, and the military. Through Satia’s eyes, we acquire a radically new understanding of this critical historical moment and all that followed from it. Sweeping in its scope and entirely original in its approach, Empire of Guns is a masterful new work of history — a rigorous historical argument with a human story at its heart.
Year: 2018
Primary URL: http://
Primary URL Description: Penguin website for the book
Publisher: Penguin
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780735221864
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes


Jerry Bentley Prize
Date: 9/15/2019
Organization: American Historical Association
Abstract: Best book in world history

Wadsworth Prize
Date: 4/15/2019
Organization: Business Archives Council
Abstract: Best book in Business History

PCCBS Book Prize
Date: 3/15/2019
Organization: Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies
Abstract: best book in British history (cowinner with another book)