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Tales from South China Seas Paperback – Illustrated, 30 Jun 1997


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; illustrated edition edition (30 Jun 1997)
  • ISBN-10: 0563200324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563200321
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,974,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A Brief life of the Queen.

I have been writing about the Queen now for nearly forty years, and this little book is intended to distil and re-shape what I've learned into one pleasant afternoon's reading - a summary of its predecessors Majesty (1977) and Monarch (2002, Royal in the UK), with further research and thoughts on Elizabeth II in the year of her Diamond Jubilee.

'Lege feliciter', as the Venerable Bede used to say - May you read happily!

- Robert Lacey, January 2012 - http://robertlacey.com

Robert Lacey is an historian and biographer whose research has taken him from the Middle East ("The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud") to America's Mid-West ("Ford: the Men and the Machine"). "Majesty", his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II, is the definitive study of British monarchy - a subject on which Robert lectures around the world, appearing regularly on ABC's Good Morning America and on CNN's Larry King Live.

Product Description

Book Description

This third and final part of the Tales of Empire trilogy chronicles the lives, manners and fortunes of some 70 subjects of the former British Empire in the Far East - men and women who lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak, Borneo and Hong Kong in the last half-century of the Empire. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Charles Allen is an oral and military historian specialising in colonial matters. He is the author of several previous books and lives in north London. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Oct 2001
Format: Paperback
This a moving, interesting collection of oral histories, mostly from Malaya and Borneo, plus one (and, sadly, only one) fascinating account of operating a steamer on the Yangtze River in pre-war China (despite the title, this book has no other accounts of China and none of Hong Kong or Macao). Many of the accounts come from rubber plantation managers in Malaya and district officers deep in the wilds of Borneo. Lots of wonderful detail of colonial life, right up to the end. Includes some accounts of the Malayan Emergency - frightening tales of being in a plantation house surrounded by jungle, waiting for Chinese communists to come and kill you! (A subject also treated (very well) in Noel Barber's War of the Running Dogs (also recommended).
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Oct 2000
Format: Paperback
This is really interesting history of a complex and wonderful place, told by the people who were there. Sometimes oral histories don't work, but this one certainly does: the period is brought to life. Brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Marshall on 3 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book, a companion to "Plain Tales From The Raj", and "Soldier Sahibs", where Charles Allen gives us access to those people who actually lived and worked in the British Empire.

As others have said, extremely evocative and romantic, showing how young British officials, fresh out of university, were thrown in at the deep end to administer the far-flung reaches of the world's greatest empire.

I love the descriptions of the 3-week journeys out from Britain by ship, where last-fling affairs occurred between these young men and new wives out to join their husbands, the descriptions of the smell in the air, the new winds, as the steamer entered the South Seas...

Or the wonderful description of how the British dealt with their awesome responsibilities for administration, thousands of miles from their homes, and often with no-one to assist them apart from a few local recruited officials - hundreds of miles from any military force, despite what today's empire-bashers would have us believe.

Then there is the dispassionate way one account describes the official duty of visiting the remote tribes in Borneo and Sarawak the only way possible - by river canoe, where after days of travel you sleep with your hosts under one roof in their "Long House", together with all their livestock below, and dogs which run around and over you at night, knowing that "if you didn't get to sleep straight away, you never would..".

The famous British phlegm and humorous stoic acceptance of duty are also revealed when called upon to adjudicate in local disputes, when even the British sense of duty and integrity are stretched to the limit by the "barrage of perjury" from both sides of a case.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By harrylimex on 11 Feb 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a BBC book and contains many stories of people who were working or living in the Empire. It is not political and the tales are fascinating and memorable. I read it years ago, often thought about it, so bought a copy and it is as good as I remember.
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