The Lords of Human Kind

European Attitudes to Other Cultures in the Imperial Age

Victor Kiernan
With a Foreword by John Trumpbour
and a Tribute to Victor Kiernan by Eric Hobsbawm


A landmark work in the history of eurocentrism by one of Britain's most distinguished left-wing historians
When European explorers went out into the world to open up trade routes and establish colonies, they brought back much more than silks and spices, cotton and tea. Inevitably, they came into contact with the peoples of other parts of the world and formed views of them occasionally admiring, more often hostile or contemptuous.

Using a stunning array of sources - missionaries' memoirs, the letters of diplomats' wives, explorers' diaries and the work of writers as diverse as Voltaire, Thackeray, Oliver Goldsmith and, of course, Kipling - Victor Kiernan teases out the full range of European attitudes to other peoples. Erudite, ironic and global in its scope, The Lords of Human Kind has been a major influence on a generation of historians and cultural critics and is a landmark in the history of Eurocentrism.

Author Bio

Victor Kiernan (1913-2009) ranks among Britain's most distinguished historians. After a fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and a long period spent teaching in India, he joined the History Department at the University of Edinburgh, where he served as professor of modern history from 1970 until his retirement. Over the course of his life he authored such works as European Empires from Conquest to Collapse; The Duel in European History; Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen and numerous others, as well as translating two volumes of Urdu poetry.

Table of Contents

  • Prefatory Note by Heather Kiernan
  • A Tribute to Victor Kiernan by Eric Hobsbawm
  • Foreword by John Trumpbour
  • Preface to the First Edition
  • Preface to the 1995 Edition
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. India
  • 3. Other Colonies in Asia
  • 4. The Islamic World
  • 5. The Far East
  • 6. Africa
  • 7. The South Seas
  • 8. Latin America
  • 9. Conclusion
  • Index


'One of the rewards of my career as a historian is to have once suggested the idea of this book to Victor Kiernan, knowing that no other scholar had the brilliance and global range of learning to write it. It is still a marvellous book, fresh as on the day of first publication and ready for a new generation of readers.'
Eric Hobsbawm

'[Victor Kiernan is] that great Scottish historian of empire.'
Edward Said

'Remains an important resource for the history of racism and empire, and is a finely written book.'

'A marvellous and erudite introduction to the cruelties and absurdities of the European empires. With its entertaining style and encyclopaedic range, there is nothing quite like this book. It should be read by every teacher and by every schoolchild.'
Richard Gott, author of Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt

'Provides an essential anti-Imperialist introduction to global history, and remains an indispensible work for understanding the modern world. The new edition is to be unreservedly welcomed.'
John Newsinger, author of The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire


Publication Date: 12 February 2015
392 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783604296
eBook ePub: 9781783604319
eBook PDF: 9781783604302
eBook Kindle: 9781783604326

Appears in

Why is peer review so important?

Learn more about the various types of peer review, why it’s so important, what the social and political considerations of peer review are and how we use it at Zed Books.