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How the age of empires cast a long shadow

History: The Great Imperial Hangover

Samir Puri

Atlantic Books, 384 pages, hardback €21

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Big trouble in little China: A woman shouts at police officers in Hong Kong during pro-democracy protests last July

Big trouble in little China: A woman shouts at police officers in Hong Kong during pro-democracy protests last July

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'The Great Imperial Hangover' by Samir Puri is published by Atlantic Books

'The Great Imperial Hangover' by Samir Puri is published by Atlantic Books

Big trouble in little China: A woman shouts at police officers in Hong Kong during pro-democracy protests last July

Historian Samir Puri explains what inspired him to explore how imperial powers have shaped the world we live in today.

A decade ago, I witnessed a milestone in the Irish peace process, when an agreement was reached to devolve policing and justice powers from London to Belfast. Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Prime Minister Gordon Brown stood side by side as the joint guarantors of the Hillsborough Agreement. Heated negotiations came down to the wire before the deal was done with a politically weakened Peter Robinson of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin in February 2010.

I was a junior civil servant in the British government working to support the process and, as an impartial generalist, had no axe to grind one way or another. In fact, back then, I didn't know much at all about the history of Anglo-Irish relations. And why should I have done?