The False Dawn was first published in 1975. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

As the author explains, the false dawn that greeted and disappointed the visitors in E. M. Forster's A Passage to India is a literary image that might serve as a value judgment of modern overseas empire in general. Commenting that the term "empire" is now badly tarnished, Professor Betts points out that no bright dawn of understanding has yet appeared on the academic horizon. With this perceptive viewpoint, he traces the course of European imperialism beginning with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and ending with a final glance toward the Western Front in August, 1914.

Reviewing the book in the Historian, Lawrence J. Baack calls it "a clear and concise essay on the nature of European imperialism." In its review Choice says: "Undergraduates and graduate students alike will welcome this book as a readable general introduction to more technical works."