What were the forces that thrust the British Empire to its extraordinary position of greatness and then just as powerfully drove it into decline? And why is nearly every nation on earth, in one way or another, the consequence of the British Empire?
In these 36 lectures, Professor Allitt leads you through four centuries of British power, innovation, influence, and, ultimately, diminishment - four profound centuries that literally remade the world and bequeathed the complex global legacy that continues to shape your everyday life. This is a remarkable lecture series; one that will give you fresh insights into world history in a wide range of areas - political, economic, technological, social, and more. And it will also give you a comprehensive overview you won't find offered anywhere else - a context into which you can integrate new knowledge about this country, as well as understand the background of current events in so many other countries that were once part of Britain's empire, from Ireland to China, and in Africa and the Caribbean. Indeed, it seems fair to say that one cannot truly understand the most important aspects of world history without a firm grasp of the history of the British Empire. In giving you that grasp, these lectures draw on a vast range of critical events, riveting personalities, revealing anecdotes, and eloquent quotations.
Compelling, comprehensive, and astonishing in the force of its narrative power, each lecture will give you a refreshing new understanding of what made the British Empire both great in its achievements and vulnerable to its eventual downfall.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
The full consequences of the rise and (perhaps especially) the fall of the British Empire are still very much unfolding in our world. In Africa and the Middle East especially, the transformation to independence has been so recent that no historian can give true perspective to the influences, rights, and wrongs of the Age of Empire.
That said, it seems to me that Professor Allitt's course is very comprehensive and as balanced as any modern European historian's can be at this point. I learned a tremendous amount and am so glad for the recent inclusion of "The Great Courses" series into the Audible library.
There are 400 years of stories in this (some familiar, some not), well organized and very entertainingly presented. My husband has been abruptly disturbed many times by my exclamations of "did you know?" and "can you believe?" and "wow, I didn't know that!"- always a sign that I'm deeply involved in an absorbing and valuable listening experience!
This is certainly a wonderful overview of a long arc of history which has so influenced the development of today's political map. The evolving and widely differing motives and opinions about empire are presented with modern sensibilities (of course), but also with an attempt to recapture the mindset of the times, both in Britain and in the countries of the Empire. Non-Western historians no doubt have differing points of view, ones of equal value, but this is a great introduction to the complexities that have defined the age of imperialism.
Whether inclined or not to agree with his perspective and his conclusions, I believe anyone will benefit from listening to Professor Allitt!
Professor Patrick N. Allitt's clear and easy-to-understand presentation on the history of the British Empire.
It gave me a good prospective on world history esp. between the world wars.
I would recommend this to anybody interested in British history. It is easy to follow, with key events well presented.
I would for someone interested in history
I liked that each of the lectures were generally around 30 minutes. Each lecture was well organized and presented in an easy to understand manner.
He does bring to life many interesting topics, such as Britain's various colonial occupations of India, Australia, the US, Canada, Egypt and the Middle East, South Africa, West Indies. The more modern chapters were particularly compelling, particularly how Britain ultimately dissolved the empire in India/Pakistan and Israel/Jordan/Palestine/Egypt.
Many, but the chapters most interesting were on Africa - Boer War, finding Dr. Livingston, Egypt.
This was a masterful survey of the British Empire. It is a lecture series from the Great Courses series. The professor is intelligent, well organized in his thoughts, and very interesting to listen to. He takes you on a sweeping survey of the British empire from its beginnings in late Medieval Europe to its dismantling after the Second World War and beyond.
What it Covers: The lectures are thematic with a generally chronological progression. In them you will hear about every major part of the empire and its story, including the American Colonies, Canada, the Caribbean, India, South Africa, other African ventures, the British presence in Egypt and the middle east, Ireland, British East Asia, as well as the colonization and development of Australia and New Zealand.
Some Highlights: The professor is thorough and engaging in his covering of the material. He is great at highlighting and bring out the different major personalities that were important to the British Empire such as Cecil Rhodes and Winston Churchill. Touches like this bring life and character to his overview. Likewise he also gives some mention of the arts, especially literature. I also think he was very fair in his approach to the morality of the British empire. He tries hard to be balanced and recognize both the blessings and the curses of British rule. Also, as an added treat, the last few of his lectures go on to talk about Britain in the modern era since the loss of its empire.
Some Limitations: As an overview, the professor covers everything in brief but few things in detail. If you are looking for a deep history on any one area, such as the history of British rule in a region, in depth political or military history, or an overview of British monarchs and government, you will be disappointed. But, if you are looking for a general but thorough overview you will be satisfied. There were some personalities, places, and events that were left out. For example, little was said about Britain's scattered island possessions, save some of the Caribbean islands and a brief mention of the Falklands, or British Guyana.
Overall this was a very enjoyable and worthwhile listen. Anyone who is interested in the topic will leave with a nice overview of the history of the British empire... and probably enjoy the ride! : )
I am a bit of a history amateur. I've read plenty of history books, but as far as the history of the British Empire, the closest I had come was schoolboy textbooks and a few Winston books. So I was a little wary about whether I really wanted to indulge in 36 or so lectures about the subject.
But I was wrong. I found this subject to be very fascinating. To gain an appreciation for the other side of the US revolution, gave me a better appreciation for the uniqueness of the British and American empires. Seeing how the spheres collided time and time again, finally leading to the passing of the torch is interesting in that it never really needed to be this way. Not that I've become a Tory or that the book lectures the British in a positive light, its just that seen through the prism of time and global influence, the English speaking peoples had much more in common than they had differences. Of course most serious historians have been repeating that for decades, but these lectures really drove the point home. It was also refreshing to see the history from the eyes other than a Churchill biographer. Churchill had a profound impact upon the world, but was a rare and unique breed of person that said little about the British leaders themselves. People and their aspirations perhaps, but even then the record is mixed.
It also struck me that the US from the time of WWI argued through WW's principles that imperialism had run its course and by the end of WWII, the British themselves agreed they no longer wanted to be responsible for running an imperialist system either from an economic or moral perspective. There is quote about opportunities for freedom bringing forth the best in the nature of man, the opportunities to allocate the governance once that freedom has been won bringing forth the worst in that same man. And so it began as the British Empire dissolves, myriad immature systems elevate their men to the pedestal... nationalism, socialism, fabianism, democracy ... the book touches upon how these and other systems compete for power as men and women across the Empire are given their "freedom".
For me a good book whets the appetite, and this series will certainly inspire many more book choices for me. There is much more in the lecture series to recommend. Recommend going to the great courses website to see the titles of the lectures. This covers the major territories of the British Empire, including India, South Africa, US, Australia and discussed their formation, operating modes and events, and dissolution from the empire. It also touches upon social and political changes over the years and shows how they had a very large impact upon public opinion and subsequent British desires to stop the imperialist system. Highly recommended lecture series. Seemed to be fair and balanced to me, but I am a bit of a history noob. I may have called this lecture series a book, but there is no book that I could find. Just 36 lectures.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
This is a course that explores the history of the British Empire without glorification or condemnation, giving a balanced look at both the good and the bad. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Have not seen the print version.
He delivers the lectures in an enthusiastic and knowledgeable manner. Very listenable despite the complexity of the subject manner.
Yes! I listened to it as much as I possibly could over the last several days, and many times drove longer routes so I could listen in the car.
Just wonderful. I recommend it very highly. My only complaint is that it brought up so many interesting topics and ideas and perspectives that I have more avenues of interest to pursue now than I have time for :)
Flowing, well-structured, enjoyable voice
He goes to great lengths to appear impartial. This can get frustrating over time because tidbits of positivity are sprinkled liberally through otherwise grave episodes in history. A good example is his anecdote about how 'house slaves' were treated more favourably then 'field slaves' on the plantations. Fine, maybe so, but I'd rather hear more about the awfulness of slavery, and for him to outright say that it was awful. Also, he cites Niall Ferguson and other celebrants of empire quite regularly. Would be good to hear some references to post-colonial historians. Overall though, a fantastic series.
Probably yes. I like to hear/read people who has opposing view. Also, I like the skill of hiding and embellishing facts to create your own narrative.
Disappointment-- that 40-50 years after end of british empire, history is still written, rendered and explained based on the point of view of ill-placed colonial pride. I don't think there is any pride in ruling over people against there will.
Well It is a lecture course so, this question really does not apply.
It would be a great course if a more thorough review of different points of view of British Imperial History was included. This looks like a rendition from writing of Britishers imperial historian about "subject people" (likes of James Mill and his famous son John Mill, --by the way-- John Mill worked his whole life for East India Company London Office justifying every action of East India Company, mostly unjust--so even great thinkers may have had rather unsavory view of 'oriental people'). This course seems to have no input about the history by historians from the 'subject people' thus making it a one sided imperialist view (Professor's claim that it is a middle of the road historical view is certainly his own view and probably can't be justified by the facts).' This is a VERY orientalist/imperialist view. I can take 100s of examples from the course but let me put two--"Black hole of Calcutta" and Suttee. Black Hole--This tale has one source, Holwell---his accounts has been challenged by multiple sources including British/American Historians--like Little and Wolpert including Holwell-- and East India Company's description or culpability of Nawab of Bengal. British press, East India Comp, and British people believed it because all Orientals were despot according to them, hence, they can justify there rule in India/Bengal. Second -- Suttee--yes agreed an abhorable practice, however, there is ample evidence that Suttee increased after British took over of Diwani of Bengal--Remember great famine which killed 10 million people (Dr. Allitt presented none of it--100 odd Britishers death claimed in Black Hole of Calcutta needs several mentions and 10 million--approx double the number of Holocaust victims --Bengali die is not big history in this rendition, famine was certainly aggregated if not caused by Britishers, there were large number of famines which were hallmark of British India found no mention but cricket found a whole lecture) increased Suttee as family refused to bore responsibility in time of great stress. ALSO Flat out wrong are the annual figure of 8,000. Britishers collected thousands of pages of notes/parliamentary reports on Suttee in Bengal and it was never crossed 700 to 800, so there was a extra oriental zero even in the factual data.
Sometime historians are hung on the events and subsequent outcomes. Like once Britisher left Africa--African people can't managed there affair hence they should have been there longer. Well, there are many other possibilities-- who knows if Western colonialists were not there at all, African people would have been better off or worse off. Their current dire state may be an outcome of long subjugation and not because of the colonialist left early (according to the lecture, very self congratulatory.) History we study is just one path based on the past, which means different past may have resulted in a different outcome--which can't be derived from other initial conditions. Look at Iraq, it was very bad now it is very very bad. If one looked Europe in 1200-1500, they will never make a suggestion that these little rag-tag warring principalities will rule the whole of humanity. Borrowing from quantum physics one has to consider "all possible paths/histories" don't over analyze one path render the judgement. History can be cruel.
This review is more a reflection on the idea of "the great courses" than the actual content of this audiobook. I could not get through half of it as the information was shot at me in sporadic stints of haphazard lumps. The presenter jumps frequently through time and space and subject. There is no opportunity to absorb anything or even to be entertained and reflect on a gladwell-ian attempt at perspective.
I for one will be staying away from these lectures as a whole from here on out.
"I'm not yet finished but I am hooked"
Absolutely, and in fact I've already done so.
Like some others I know I unfortunately didn't opt to study history when I had the chance, and I've regretted it ever since as it’s left me with the question of 'where do I start first?' After all, it's difficult to read a book about any event in history without knowing what came before it, and so you end up on Wikipedia with 30-40 tabs open and your Amazon or Audible wish lists growing larger and larger as you try to create a literary timeline of what preceded your initial topic of interest. And then you're lost.
That's where this audio-book / lecture series comes in really handy as it provides you with enough detail on a great many events that you can feel more confident when making future choices in history books and topics to study. Professor Allitt achieves this by breaking down 4 centuries of the British Empire into 18 hours of surprisingly detailed listening. What seems rather daunting at first (four centuries of names, dates and countries to remember - some of which no longer go by the same names as they did then) is actually very manageable in their 30 minute segments. And it’s all presented in chronological order, which should be a given but you'd be surprised with some of the other Great Courses.
Additionally, Professor Allitt's voice suits audio-books as it’s certainly not dull or monotonous, nor is it tinny or nasally, which has again been a problem with some other lecturers in the Great Courses series. As a result it’s easy to stay focused and you don’t drift off wondering why Kermit knows so much about colonialism (I'd seriously recommend clicking the preview button before any purchase).
If like me you don't know where to start, try these lectures. They're simply excellent.
"Very enjoyable overview of the empire."
The discussion of the massacre at Amritsar, and the entire independence movement of India was fascinating.
Although it is a lot of material covered in a relatively short amount of time, I came away feeling I'd learnt a lot and would be much more comfortable reading a book on a specific part of the empire. However, given the short amount of time he does choose a couple of strange topics, e.g. one whole lecture on cricket which, whilst interesting, means he doesn't discuss other more interesting things. Overall, a great listen, well worth it!
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