5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Paxman Brittanica, 19 April 2012
I learned much from Paxman's excellent book, but he lingers too briefly on the intriguing sub-title, "What Ruling the World Did to the British". Instead, the book is largely a fascinating history of Britain's obsessive acquisition of colonies. When Paxman does finally address the question raised in the sub-title, he suggests that we will only find a new place for ourselves in the world when we drop our alleged collective amnesia and confront our past. But he perhaps overlooks the fact that, for most Brits, the empire is quite irrelevant. The attitudes and activities of imperialism were largely the preserve of the minority upper-class twits who actually ran the empire, while the rest of us at home lived in what was notionally a democracy but in reality held elections that, for many decades, offered the majority working class a choice between just two political parties comprised of affluent toffs. Britain was arguably as colonised as any of its overseas dominions. Now, half a century after the end of imperialism, the UK is a thriving democracy with a strong and educated majority voice, and is actually doing rather well in the world. No need for group therapy. We have one of the largest economies, we have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, we are a leading partner in NATO, and our nation's capital is a world-class financial and cultural powerhouse. And let's not forget that English remains the international language of commerce, science and diplomacy. All in all, not too shabby for a small island in the north Atlantic.