Tracing the decline and fall of the British Empire, Jan Morris’ beloved volume of history, Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat, the third volume in the Pax Britannica series, is every bit as entertaining as the first two. Roy McMillan’s vivid performance opens this definitive popular history up and expands its accessibility yet further. His intelligent, thoughtful voice allows the listener to sit back and enjoy the ride from a new imperialist fervor at the close of the 19th century to the death of Winston Churchill, signaling the true end of British Imperialism.
The Pax Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris’ magnificent history of the British Empire from 1837 to 1965. It is an extraordinary achievement, as entertaining as it is informative, and as vivid and immediate as it is huge in scope and ambition. This final volume charts the decline and dissolution of what was once the largest empire the world had known.
From the first signs of decay in the imperial ambition in the Boer Wars, through the global shifts in power evident in the two World Wars, it offers a perspective that is honest, evocative, and occasionally elegiac.
At 20+ hours the unabridged version of this, the 3rd in a trilogy, daunted me. I now wish it hadn't because this abridged one was so informative and well read that I wanted more straight away. I shall now download the unabridged versions of the other two books in the series (and maybe of this one too).
Jan Morris, writing this particular volume in the late 1970's captures well, as far as I know, the tortuous, but usually dignified, decline of Great Britain's imperial power in the first half of the 20th century. Peppered with interesting vignettes this is not a heavy tome but still gives a real sense of how our nation managed such a vast empire and how differently we approached each territory - something I had not previously recognised. It seems that men (always men) with 3rd class degrees were the preferred agents of Albion because of their malleability.
Finally, some praise for the narrator, whose pace and tone never intrude and always lead one on to the next interesting fact. An extremely deftly executed reading.