The Pax Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris’s epic story of the British Empire from the accession of Queen Victoria to the death of Winston Churchill. It is a towering achievement: informative, accessible, entertaining and written with all her usual bravura. Heaven’s Command, the first volume, takes us from the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The story moves effortlessly across the world, from the English shores to Fiji, Zululand, the Canadian prairies and beyond. Totally gripping history!
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If not for the antidotes and footnotes this book would of been dry as toast! Spanning 60 years, Ms Morris has set herself a giant task to explain the British Empire during Queen Victoria's rule. I believe Ms Morris has done a good job. Roy McMillan is outstanding. This is not a book I feel compelled to recommend because of its length and subject matter, but if the basic description makes the book sound interesting then it probably is a fit for you.
This is not an accessible book for Americans (at least after the first couple chapters). There are too many descriptions of architecture in far flung parts of the British empire and lots of references to notable families and people (most of whom I have never heard of).
That being said, many chapters provide compelling overviews of the British empire or exciting stories of sieges and wars. And all the chapters are very well written and the narrator is excellent.
"fabric artist and quilter"
Being an Englishman by birth the Empire was in my blood. My greatAunt's brother in law was something big in the Indian Raj, my GreatUncle mapped the Red Sea, my Grandfathers both fought in it and my parents mourned its passing as though it were a personal loss to the family.
These three books were filled with fabulous information about all the possessions that made up the empire but particularly about India. I found it all totally fascinating. It was often unbelievable stuff, a country tamed by a courageous individual, daring dos by heros straight out of comic books (or an asylum!) or battles won at tremendous cost either to the English or the natives.
There was great humour and terrible sadness and all read by Roy McMillan who did a superlative job at narrating it with perfect accents for all the different quotes by great statesmen or colonialists or dominion politicians. Kipling got a good look in as did Churchill and Jan Morris marked the end of the Empire by Churchill's death - he was the last of the true imperialists. Jan Morris visited many of the countries he wrote about and it came across as a personal view of the Empire which made it all the more vivid.
I loved these books and can not but recommend them most enthusiastically for all history buffs. I know that I will be back to listen to it all again at some stage and as it is some 80 hrs long you don't do that unless you really really enjoyed it!
... But she does a fine job of telling you what they thought.
This history of the British Empire is especially strong on the motivations for empire, from ridding the world of slavery (honorable enough) to spreading the word of God (not everyone shared this impulse, of course) to making money to escaping class to eventually simply defending what the forebears had built.
And Morris' language is so lovely! I want to listen to the whole thing again, just to hear some of those stunning sentences once more.
I LOVE this book. Already downloaded volume 2 and fully expect to order volume 3.
If all history was written this well, we would all be better off.
Informative without being tedious. Covers a lot of territory in an easily understandable way. Felt like I got an excellent, overall view of the time period. Can be doing something else and still get a lot out of this. Easier to understand than I would have imagined.
How it focused on one area of the world at a time and then another area. And then draws it all together. One gets a real feel of what was going simultaneously in the world.
Intonations and paragraph breaks excellent. Inclusion of footnotes was seamless and very helpful and informative.
No, cause I wouldn't have had the time. Glad I listened to it a little each day so I could assimilate it.
If one wants to get a very interesting sense of this period in British history, I'd recommend this book. I wanted to learn about the subject and this book provided just what I was looking for. I thought it might be a tedious read and maybe I wouldn't even finish it. But I found it absolutely fascinating and can't wait to listen to the next two parts of the series.
I really enjoyed this book. It gave a good overview of the beginning of the British Empire. I especially enjoyed the section on Sir Richard Burton & John Speke's search for the source of the Nike & Stanley's search for Dr Livingston. I also enjoyed the history of the Transvaal. The amazing story of Elphinstone's British army being massacured outside Kabul. Civilazations that don't know history are condemned to repeat it.
An interesting review of how Britain obtained and then shed an empire and just how it all happened without a concerted plan or a real overall strategy. Not quite an "Accidental Empire" but neither a thought through plan to dominate the people of the countries they added to the collection. Worth every minute and dollar to learn interesting facts and to remember that it often takes a long time for the sense (or lack thereof) of a decision to become clear.
Production values in the audio is of the normal Audbile high standard.
Witty, knowledgable, dated
The way Jan Morris manages to thematically describe the British Empire without it seeming as if she has shoe-horned events to fit her thesis, that the Empire changed, in purpose and intent, during the long reign of Victoria.
He reads well. I quibble with some of the pronunciation (''Métis" is pronounced 'may-tee', not 'metiss'), but he does well with the text, including the copious footnotes.
The book was written in the 60s and early 70s, and the attitudes and language used perhaps reflects that, but Jan Morris was and is an expert writer, and her wit and wisdom make the occasional unreconstructed imperialist tone forgivable
I expected to read about Queen Victoria....what I got was a long, dry and amazingly detailed account of each and every battle during her reign. Her name might have been mentioned three times.
I gave up - at Chapter 25, it became clear that the Queen was not the focus of the book. Lesson learned...never EVER judge a book by its cover!!!
An enjoyable voyage through the history of empire building, jumping from country to country with enough detail to get a good understanding without getting bogged down in it. The book probably does pick and choose the most sensational parts of the imperial progress, but often this whets the appetite to read more on a particular subject that by necessity the author could only recount at a fairly high level. The book is not only about the battles of empire, but includes fascinating sections, for example, on the great explorers
Have not read the print version
The narrators' sparse use of accents was used to good effect and it was nice for a change to hear a British rather than an American accent in an audible book!
I thought the chapter on the demise of the aboriginal Tasmanians was very poigneint.
"Very Long and Fascinating"
This review is for all three large volumes of Mr Morris's brilliant and exhaustive work tracing the rise and fall of the British Empire in exquisite detail. From the grand sweep of history to the obscure backwoods incidents and the always fascinating explanations of all sorts of things and "facts" that we take for granted today which it turns out did not happen in the way traditional history would have us believe.
Another amazing part of the book is as it was written in the 1960s there isno PC rubbish or mincing of words to avoid notional offense given to any race or religion, all are treated equally and their stories told in all the gory details good or bad - this is certainly not a glorious whitewash of the Empire's history it is honest and frank in every way possibe.
The most unusual thing for me are the Irish sections which in mostly tends to be glossed over in the UK and still is today, this however was a relevation to me on the course and history of the "Irish Troubles".
The whole thing is a must for anybody interested in World History, I doubt I could have sat and read the books but on Audio they are brilliant.
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