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,..Show More » 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.
In this, the second volume of Jan Morris's history of the British Empire, we are given a masterful overview of the British Empire on one specific day...Show More » That day is June 22, 1897 - the date of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (the 60th anniversary of her reign). Mr. Morris chooses this date as the ascendant point of the British Empire.
This book is a tour-De-force of history as it surveys almost every conceivable angle of the Empire as it stood on this one day. This covers not just the physical condition of the people in England, imperialists at work in the Empire, and the people who were being ruled - but their attitudes, literature, music, arts, military capabilities, and more.
There are so many things to recommend about this trilogy, but one of the most impressive is how many places Mr. Morris physically visited while putting it together. This gives its descriptions, which are lavish and highly evocative, a "been there" authority. Of course, we only know when an empire is at its peak when its decline is in view, but given that this book was originally written in the late 1960's Mr. Morris's choice of this date seems very prescient.
And it must be noted that the narrator - Roy McMillan - is simply brilliant in his performance.
This third volume in the Pax Britannica series picks up the story following Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee on June 22 1897 and takes it forward to th..Show More »e death of Winston Churchill in 1965. Of course, it didn't immediately seem that the British Empire was in any sort of decline. Following World War I, the empire was larger than it had ever been with the additions of Iraq and Palestine and Arabia.
However, the carnage of the Great War (as it was then known) had sapped all the confidence from the English people and their conviction that they had the right to rule other people. Not all of them, as the ones living in the colonial possessions in India and Southeast Asia and Africa - but the conviction that powers an imperialism had gone away.
As always Jan Morris moves this wonderful history along with many personal observations from those who had actually been in India and Singapore and Port Siad. The sights, smells, prejudices, and actions of empire are beautifully documented. After World War II (or as this history calls it "the last great imperial war') the British subdivided India and skedaddled in 73 short days in 1947 leaving carnage behind as India's peoples killed each other with ferocity. And from then on they gave away their empire just as quickly as they could. Even Churchill couldn't stop the tide, and by the time of his death empire and colonialism were considered anachronistic.
This wonderful and compelling story is superbly narrated by Roy McMillan. His work on this trilogy has made me look for other things he has narrated simply because of his terrific work.