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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When I reached the end of this volume, I thought, "Is that it? I don't feel like I saw the empire actually arrive." It almost crept up on me. Sure, there were battles and conquests, but there didn't seem to be any grand advances of empire. Perhaps this was the point: the growth was organic, steady, and inexorable. Also, the fact that the book's end arrived before I could believe must mean that it was engaging. The short biographies of the individual empire builders were fantastic. (The footnotes were my favorite part.)
I also liked the emphasis on three themes throughout: 1) the effect of the abolished slave trade and slaveholdings, 2) the evangelical and humanitarian motives of empire, and 3) the reluctance through most of Victoria's reign by most Englishmen to even pursue empire.
You will enjoy this book if you want to learn about the growth of the British Empire under Victoria.
If you like history, complete with poetry and context, you will love this series! Jan Morris visited most of the locations he writes about and since that was in the '50's and '60's, we have a very interesting half way view to "what has happened" since. Halfway through, I started following the action on Google Earth, what a perspective! Some of these islands are so remote, I can't believe anyone knew about them, yet here they are with capitals like Victoria and Salisbury. I feel like I have been on a trip around the world in 50 hours. If Mr. Morris had written our history books, I may have paid more attention in HS. The author shows the Empire from all sides that represent themselves in the English attitudes of the day. Last but not least, Roy Mcmillan reads like a movie, voices of Kipling, Shaw, and Gandhi just to name a very few are as true as the cockney of the sailor and accent of the bartender down under. Truly this is one of the very best "stories/histories/audiobooks" I have ever listened to (I am getting close the my first 100). I hope you get it and enjoy it as much as I did. PS, the author does the forward, his voice is much less compelling than the reader, so do not be put off by the introduction as his voice is stilted and slightly muffled compared to Mr. McMillan's. Please enjoy.
A wonderful and entertaining history of how Britain accumulated it's second empire (having lost the first in the 18th century in the United States). Mr. Morris has a wonderful eye for the details which make you feel like you are there in Fiji or Bermuda or deepest Africa. He doesn't try to provide a detailed history of everything that happened in the 19th century, but he chooses the individual actions which demonstrate the overall sweep of history as Imperial Britain eventually emerged.
One specific note concerning the Narrator - Roy McMillan. I have been listening to audiobooks for more years than I care to acknowledge, listening to celebrities and authors and all kinds of narrators. The narration to this audiobook is a masterpiece. This is not a short story, but at no point did I feel that the narrator was simply going through the lines in order to come out the other end as you can get with some audiobooks. Mr. McMillan is a joy to listen to and I certainly look forward to listening to the other two volumes in this history.
Moving telling of someone who grew up in Great Britain at the close of the Imperial Age. The narrator has a wonderful British accent. The history is tragic and moving--leading you to sympathize with Imperialists while learning about their tragedies and victories. Really enjoyable, and I will listen to this one again.
which is why my overall rating is lower than the others. Morris writes beautifully, in great detail, on a few specific topics (The Rout of Kabul, The Hudson's Bay Company in Canada, Charles Parnell as a figure in Irish history, etc.), which McMillan's enthusiastic narration complements well.
I already listened to part three of the book twice. I Loved it!
Every minute was amazing!
I have never listened to a better reader. It looks like I may have to read the last book in the series and I will miss Roy McMillan a lot. Terrific reader!
If I had the time
An excellent reading of an obsorbing history.
The Life Of Elizabeth I.
You will probably want to bye the other two volumes.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
When Victoria took the throne, the seeds of empire were already sown, and yet the very concept was considered anathema by the people of Britain. So what happened to change that? This was the question for which I wanted the answer, which led me to this book. And oh boy does it answer it.
My favorite history books are those that don't dwell on names and dates. I need stories, people, cause and effect, motivations... the very things that puts the human element back into the histories. This book does exactly that, and as it does rely on anecdotal elements as much as it does on anything else, there are times when this book reads like a high adventure story. And really, isn't that part of what drew the manliest men of the British Empire to the cause in the first place? That's certainly the impression most people have, and it's partially true. But author Jan Morris digs much deeper and makes the transition of the nation's views seem almost natural and perhaps even inevitable in a weird sort of way. To discover the truths of Imperialism is to discover the darker truths of mankind. For some, it's an excuse for unabashed evil, for others it's very much the "road to hell paved by good intentions." Having seen this sort of thing in the rise of so many powerful countries, throughout history, it's easy to point to things in the aftermath and make sweeping statements about what's good or evil. A book like this makes the reader understand that it's rarely so simple, even when the players involved thought it was at the time. It's so simple, it's complex, and yet the writer slides us through it all with the ease of an experienced tour guide.
I'm looking forward to books 2 and 3 of this series, though I have to admit to needing a brief diversion between volumes due to the density of the material. This book packs a punch, and it takes a while to decompress what you're given. It's a worthy read in that it packs so much in one volume without dumbing it down. In short, my kind of history book. Well worth the credit. If the other 2 volumes are on par, then it'll be well worth the 3 credits for the series as a whole.
Roy McMillan is a quality narrator, so I'm pleased that he's along for the rest of the series. His manner is engaging so as to keep you involved the whole way through.
This is one fact-filled tome!
The author's writing vividly brings to life the many worlds conveyed within.
A clear and connected reading, with a wonderful cadence.
Some of the unfortunate atrocities committed both against and by the British were moving, but ultimately the story is so well balanced that one may recall just as easily the favorable expedition of gentlemen adventurers in pursuit of the source of the Nile, or a war that almost began over a dead pig but thankfully fizzled out with British and American officers enjoying one another's company on a remote, 10 mile long island instead of fighting one another.
Great for those seriously interested in history.
I very much enjoyed this book although at times a few of the obscure references were a bit hard even for an Anglophile.
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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