History is at once what happened in the past and the varied accounts we tell about it. As such, history reflects scholarly advances in what we know about the past, as well as current changes in interest and concern. The latter are germane to this book because of the rapid rise in relative prominence of China and India, and the apparent decline, at least relative decline, of the West, and certainly of Europe. In 2012, Asian military expenditure passed that of Europe, although the latter remained higher at the per capita level. This perspective poses a number of questions in the coverage of the eighteenth century. First, how far should more attention than is conventionally given be devoted to China and India in that period because of the situation today? Secondly, should there be more attention because trends in that period can be linked to the situation today, notably the Chinese conquest of Xinjiang and Tibet in the eighteenth century and opposition, sometimes violent, in each now to Chinese rule? Thirdly, if the latter two approaches are rejected as misguided, then how should attention be apportioned between areas and developments in the eighteenth century? However, the very use of the term ‘development’ presupposes a clear pattern of improvement and improvability.
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