The Bodley Head has won a five-way auction for Charlotte Lydia Riley’s "fresh and vital" revisionist history of post-war imperial Britain.
Will Hammond, deputy publishing director, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Carrie Plitt at Felicity Bryan Associates for Imperial Island.
The book, which does not yet have a release date, will challenge traditional narratives of the last 75 years of British history, the publisher said.
Its synopsis explains: "Retelling for a new generation the story of post-war immigration and decolonisation, from the Suez Crisis to the Falklands, from the Notting Hill Riots to the Tebbit Test, from the rise of the British Black Power movement to Band Aid and the Windrush Scandal, Imperial Island will show how imperialism has left a legacy of racism, violence and jingoism in Britain that persists to the present, providing an alternative view of our past that helps explain the contemporary upheaval of Brexit. Giving voice to ordinary British people throughout, it will describe the effect on Britain of its slide from imperial ‘glory’ to a more limited role on the world stage and how the idea of being British has shifted accordingly."
Riley is a lecturer in 20th-century British history at the University of Southampton, whose writing has appeared in publications including the New Statesman, Prospect, Dazed and the BBC World Histories magazine. She co-hosts a podcast, "Tomorrow Never Knows", in which she and Emma Lundin discuss feminism, pop culture, politics and history. Her Twitter feed @lottelydiahas almost 35,000 followers, and she writes a regular column in Tribune about modern history, British identity and the left.
She said: "The current political context makes me even more committed to writing histories of Britain that challenge received thinking and prioritise the stories of ordinary people, the most vulnerable, and those who have often been forgotten or ignored. I am so pleased to be writing this with The Bodley Head, the perfect home for this book."
Hammond added: "Charlotte Lydia Riley is a hugely exciting new voice in British imperial history, who brings a fresh and vital perspective to a subject that is ripe for wider reassessment. This will be a book to stir debate and capture the attention of a new generation of readers."