Based on extensive archival research, Contesting Empires looks at the earlier contest of empires in the New World, especially among Spain, France, and England, and then examines the opposition to empire, the promotion of empire, and the question of slavery. Hart's discussion of slavery also ranges from early Arab, African and Portuguese practices in Africa and beyond, to the legal abolition of slavery in the British empire, the United States and elsewhere in the nineteenth century.

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