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 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.
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.
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.
I very much enjoyed this book although at times a few of the obscure references were a bit hard even for an Anglophile.
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.
"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!
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 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.
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