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A History of Britain, Volume 3: The Fate of Empire 1776-2000 Hardcover – Jan 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771079222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771079221
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 3.9 x 25.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,280,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prize-winning author of fourteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age; Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution; Landscape and Memory; Rembrandt's Eyes; the History of Britain trilogy and Rough Crossings, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written widely on music, art, politics and food for the Guardian, Vogue and the New Yorker. His award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC stretches over two decades and includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain and the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art. The American Future: A History appeared on BBC2 in autumn 2008.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hilton on 25 Oct 2002
Format: Hardcover
I don't like glossy coffee-table books because of their physical nature. If you like to read lying down they are a bind: lie on your back and they make your arms sore in a way no paperback does; lie on your side and their waxy pages catch and reflect the light. *And* you have to swap sides every time you turn the page.
But for Simon Schama I'll make an exception. This is not just a paperback text with glossy pictures stuck on and a tenner added to the price. It is - please forgive the terrible nineties expression - an 'experience'.
This particular period of history is not, perhaps, as interesting as the centuries covered in the earlier volumes. After the excitement of the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath the narrative becomes less incident-packed and more focussed on social history. That I find this less interesting than the battles and religious strife that went before says more about me than it does about Schama. His prose pleasantly complements the photos and illustrations. He might not thank me for saying it, but he gives history a pleasing sense of narrative such as we non-academic dabblers need to keep us entertained.
So, a good purchase, especially if you're buying someone a present, or you're after a handsome volume to sit on your living room bookshelf. If you actually want to learn about the period this is a good introduction. However Schama is generally uncontroversial and readers already familiar with the material won't find much that's new.
Just be prepared to sit at a table to read it. Or maybe you want to beef up those biceps?
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on 26 Nov 2002
Format: Hardcover
Let me start off this review by saying that I am a great admirer of Mr. Schama. I have read "Citizens", "Landscape And Memory" and "Rembrandt's Eyes" and thought they were all wonderful. I would give all of those books a 5 star rating. So, what happened here? I think what happened was that Mr. Schama was being pulled in 2 different directions. This book is meant to accompany the television programs that the author is hosting for the BBC. Instead of just writing whatever book he might ordinarily have written, I think Mr. Schama was hindered by the restrictions the TV format placed on him. For the TV shows he had to come up with various "hooks", a few well-known personalities that would help him illustrate whatever point or points he was trying to make at that place in the narrative. Additionally, the television format required Mr. Schama to be ruthlessly selective in what he chose to include or exclude. There just isn't the time to put in everything that you'd like to. These requirements distort the writing process. Mr. Schama is aware of the problem and addresses it in the preface to the book. But this "preemptive strike", this acknowledgement by the author that he is aware of the problem, doesn't make the problem go away. The author is such a good historian, and such a good writer, that this book is still well-worth reading. Mr. Schama has pulled out, like rabbits from a hat, some interesting tales of little-known historical figures. Here we have Thomas Day, a great believer in the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "...Day...believed in the inter-connectedness of all created life and was therefore a vegetarian...Would he want to treat all creatures with the same consideration, asked a sardonic lawyer friend, even spiders? Would he not want to kill them?Read more ›
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Ian Thumwood on 12 Oct 2003
Format: Hardcover
The final volume of the 3-book series is as beautifully packaged and illustrated as the previous volumes and Schama'a narrative is as splendid as ever. Like the T.V. series, this third volume is a little annoying in the fact that Schama is obsessed with the arts to the detriment of the sciences. This is certainly a unique view on British history, such as the over-emphasis on the French Revolution in the first section, and many great characters such as Brunel have little to play in Schama's view of events. Schama seems intent on celebrating more obscure people at the expense of the more mundane. (I.e. No Nelson, Drake, Dickens is less significant a writer than Gaskilll, etc.)The chapters on the British Empire show Schama willing to trot out old cliches, something he intended not to do in his Preface in Volume 1. Here, the reader would be better directed to Niall Ferguson's excellent book where Schama's weaknesses become more apparent. There is plenty to read on the build-up to WW 2 but the actual conflict is almost mentioned in passing. WW1 gets even less attention.
I really enjoyed Volume 1 and felt that the author dealt with Medieval History in a clear, concise and witty manner. Volume 2 is the least interesting as Schama spent too much time dealing with constitutional issues. However, Volume 3 is too eccentric to be considered authoritive and is content to reduce the last 50 years to a few pages.
As a whole, the series is ambitious but Schama is too controversial in the emphasis he gives his different subjects. Norman Davies' book is also an interesting read, but ,equally not authorative, although more detailed. Readers interested in Pre-history will be disappointed by both books.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "phillipgfbowen" on 30 Dec 2002
Format: Hardcover
Volume 3 of Schama's History of Britain is outstanding in its lucidity, honesty and insight. Schama's ability to convey the feel and texture of the past is nowhere better brought out than in his final instalment of his History of Britain.
Schama has also been alive and aware of the inevitability of giving us his History, as the title says, it is 'A History'. This is not a definitive, detailed all-inclusive history because Professor Schama no doubt knows that this is not possible and probably asethetically not desirable anyway. No, Schama instead continues to tell this History as a story, with a sense of truth that is not "always and forever" but that is sensitive toward what can reasonably told.
Schama's interests tend towards the cultural and the social and this is complimented not just by the astonishing weight of such material that is to be found in the modern and post modern eras, but also recent trends in writing cultural history. So the Great Exhibition becomes a symbol of Victorian Britain, the Romantic poets a key to unlocking post Revolutionary Britain whilst his weaving of the fate of Empire through the lives of Churchill and Orwell is a rich and demanding example of a historian in command of his work.
His skill is his ability to waltz from the parochial to the national and international, from the voiceless to the powerful and from the image to the text whilst all the while preserving clarity of thought and direction. His startling trait of providing insight through comparison and difference and his ability to play with imagination, memory and text all add toward a book remarkable in its breadth of knowledge.
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