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.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture series by Professor Allitt. While he cannot, due to time constraints, go deep with any one time period or geographic dimension of the BE, he does a fantastic job of giving an overview of the history of the British Empire. He is entertaining and easy to listen to from a performance standpoint. Professor Allitt left me with a desire to read further into many aspects of British History touched on in this course. He does an excellent job of presenting a point of you that is fair, though decidedly British, perspective, therefore providing an American audience the opportunity to see perhaps familiar events through another lens. Well done! Highly recommended.
I like history and biography, novels too. I do have a thing for zombie books as well. I need crappy thrillers now and then.
Prof Allitt gives an even appraisal of the British Empire finally concluding that despite shameful moments, it left the world with positive institutions and ideas--and in comparison to other empires (think of the Spanish conquistadors, or Stalin) the British empire comes out looking pretty good.
I do enjoy a British voice too. So many Great Courses professors are American.
Oh, the two chapters on empire literature fit in really well.
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.
"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.
"A 'popular' history, which suffers in the detail"
First, the immensity of the subject under study here has to be recognised. To cover a brief so wide in a few dozen hours is exceptionally hard, but Allitt performs admirably. He has a confident speaking style, and a voice that is easy to listen to, with a pretty well constructed script.
However, there are faults here that need to be flagged. First, it is obvious that he is inexpert in much of what he is speaking about. In the case of Ireland (which I know a bit about) he incorrectly identifies the first President and the duration of the War of Independence. He also uses the term Britain incorrectly, gifting it a wider geopolitical remit than it ever had - Ireland has never been part of Britain, part of the United Kingdom 1800-1919/22, yes, but never Britain (England, Scotland, Wales (which is much neglected) and their offshore islands). It seems likely that Indian, Chinese and American scholars could pick up on similar issues for their own countries too - ipso facto, the historical veracity of sections of the course would have to be questioned, something that would leave the listener questioning the reliability of using the course in the first place.
He, inadvisably in my opinion, devotes an entire lecture to the game of cricket, stating, misleadingly that a way to identify whether a country was ever in the British Empire is to find out if it has a national cricket team. This old trope has been trotted out many times by historians who overlook the fact that the Netherlands has a team (never colonised, albeit with a late 17th century imperial connection), and that America, among other former colonies has no team. Exceptions that prove the rule, it could be argued, but not successfully, I think.
On balance he does not, as too many British historians have done, proclaim the positive effect the Empire had on the world - he readily recognises its deficiencies and failures, as well as its successes.
Not bad really, but additional research would have helped this course avoid being just another popular account, trotting out too many of the old, well known and often misleading cliches of Imperial history.
"Facts, stories and references - little content"
Good for high school history or someone who doesn't know about the Birtish Empire
very little background of why other than the obvious -- a two dimensional view
not particularly except for his wierd British accent
needs more background as what motivated Britian compared to , say France or Spain to expand their empires -- or the difficulties is doing so
I persevered but found that I know little more about the BE than I did at the end of High School
"Great little listen"
Comprehensive and thorough especially given the time restrictions. Not overly verbose. The basics beyond the history are conveyed without prejudice and are clear for anyone to grasp. A great lecture series for history buffs and casual listeners alike
"Vitally important narrative"
I am a British man of Black African origin and was in need of a comprehensive explanation of history which shaped the life I live in and life as it occurred for me. Racism, empire, African impoverishment and the explanation for where British might and dominance of the last few 100 years came from. I am glad to say that it's all in here. All of it. Factual, varied. Eclectic and wide ranging in its perspective.
Alitt is an English man and it does come across and in the interests of Academic purity, I can forgive the bias he shows at times. Particularly for concluding for us the listeners whether the British Empire was a good or bad thing. He concludes that it was ultimately good. I don't agree or disagree but as an Academic he should have left it up to me to decide.
Otherwise. A heroic effort from a fantastic scholar and educator. Extreme erudition and knowledge. Thank you for your efforts Professor. You have moved me forward in my understanding and appreciation of this thing we call humanity.
"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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