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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the unabridged audiobook edition of Empire by Niall Ferguson, read by Jonathan Keeble.

Once vast swathes of the globe were coloured imperial red, and Britannia ruled not just the waves but the prairies of America, the plains of Asia, the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Arabia. Just how did a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic achieve all this? And why did the empire on which the sun literally never set finally decline and fall?

Niall Ferguson's acclaimed Empire brilliantly unfolds the imperial story in all its splendours and its miseries, showing how a gang of buccaneers and gold diggers planted the seed of the biggest empire in all history - and set the world on the road to modernity.

©2017 Niall Ferguson (P)2017 Penguin AudioBooks

Critic Reviews

"The most brilliant British historian of his generation...Ferguson examines the roles of 'pirates, planters, missionaries, mandarins, bankers and bankrupts' in the creation of history's largest empire...he writes with splendid panache...and a seemingly effortless, debonair wit." (Andrew Roberts)
"Dazzling...wonderfully readable." (New York Review of Books)
"A remarkably readable précis of the whole British imperial story - triumphs, deceits, decencies, kindnesses, cruelties and all." (Jan Morris)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Such a great listen - What a History Lesson

I have listened to Niall Ferguson's book "Civilization" three times. I know I will do the same with this book. There is so much in this book which remains pertinent to the situations and times we are witnessing and living in today. This book pieced together and explained so many shadowy yet prevalent cultural happenings such as the Boar War and Gallipoli: things I knew the NAMES of but really had no understanding of why they had happened or what their importance meant to current events.

While there is much that was arrogant and even brutal about the British Empire, Mr, Ferguson explains the origins and outcomes in an even handed way. The book is written in an easy to comprehend manner, it is not a boring academic tome that people who lack a Phd can understand or enjoy.

I can't emphasize enough how amazing Jonathan Keeble is as a narrator. He is pitch perfect. I often look for his books because he seems to make anything he reads even better. I basically listened to this book in one sitting. It was very, very good.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Worst empire ever, except for all the rest.

An engaging, if a bit of an uneven, account of the British Empire, as the author vacillates between a contemptuous view of the notion of empire and unabashed patriotism. The result is a bit disconcerting, abandoning a more measured style for a one that tends to reach for extremes of emotion. But oddly, it works.

The book gives unique perspectives on the major events of the empire, particularly in America and India. The author does go a bit afield with suppositions of alternate realities regarding slavery and colonialism, which can't strictly be supported, but it's all good food for thought. Where it starts to strain is the repetition of how the British empire's actions could be viewed as similar to the SS in Nazi Germany, but not as bad.... the Boer treatment of Africa, but not as bad... the Japanese colonisation of Asia, but not as bad. While certainly understandable, it's a theme that perhaps could have been made with a slightly subtler hammer.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Derek
  • 12-05-17

Enthralling book and has great relevance today

What did you like most about Empire?

Providing a very balanced and dispassionate view of the British Empire throughout under pined with key economic data to back it up. This data is used to dispel many of the popular and politically correct myths about the the Empire that prevail and raises questions of the modern world order.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Empire?

There are many but one that you keep being reminded of is how the empire that ruled over a quarter of the world was created and maintained for so long on such limited manpower and resources. Something hard to imagine in today's world

Have you listened to any of Jonathan Keeble’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Film would not do this book justice given the breath and depth of the subject matter

Any additional comments?

If you have an interest in history this is a compelling listen. Hard to put down. Despite all the bad press about the British Empire it does make you feel proud of the many achievements of our ancestors while at the same time being ashamed of some of their behavior too.

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  • Joshua
  • 11-05-17

The only book about Empire you will ever need

For many years I had lived in the private shame of my ignorance about the British Empire. This book was my first proper education on one of the most interesting pieces of British/World history and if I were to be told it would be my last education about it I would not be overly dissatisfied- due to having been grounded in Ferguson's focused yet comprehensive account (otherwise known as incredibly well written.) It won't however be my last dabble in this period of history because it has inspired in me the interest to focus more on the themes and aspects raised within.

No boring history lecture, this is a story- an exciting story full from the beginnings to the end, the ups and downs, the good and the bad of the Empire. Ferguson tells this episode in a very interesting manner, frequently utilising: quotes, diary entries, poems, and other key texts from the times in order to entrench the listener in the atmosphere and context of the situation, a fantastic way of storytelling.

Ferguson also confronts all of the big questions that Empire raised: was it a good thing? was it really beneficial to the average Brit? How did it differ in comparison to the other European empires? and of course, How did Britain Make the Modern World?


No empire has spread as wide or has determined as much the shape of the planet we see today. Consequently everyone should read this book, but every Briton must read this book.



0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Armstrong
  • 10-27-17

What a punt! Top Book.

Took a risk buying a largely unreviewed audiobook and the payoff was delightful!

I have listened to over a hundred audiobooks and this one might just be my favorite. Comprehensive balanced and insightful, the book really is all three. My only gripe is the length and focus on the 20th century which was undisciplined in sticking to the subject matter and therefore ending up telling much of which has been brilliantly told elsewhere.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful