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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Land of Hope and Glory, 12 Oct 2011
G. M. Sinstadt - See all my reviews
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The year 1897 is the peg upon which Jan Morris hangs her overview of the British Empire in the hour of its greatest glory. 1897 because it was the year of Victoria's golden jubilee, Queen for sixty years. As we approach a similar milestone in the reign of Elizabeth II the book acquires added piquancy.

All over the map of the world in 1897 red marked the extent of British influence: "a begrudging kind of paradise," Morris calls it. A paradoxical paradise, too, for there was little uniformity to bind the various patches of land - from tiny atolls to semi-continents - which variably ruled themselves while always being subject to Victoria's government. "Legally," the author writes, "there was no such thing as a British Empire. It had no constitutional meaning. Physically, too, it was a kind of fiction, or bluff, in that it implied a far stronger power at the centre than really existed."

But it worked. Strengths and weaknesses everywhere, but still it worked. There can be no greater praise for this book than to say that it encompasses the whole, black, white and grey, while constantly illuminating it with the detail. I quickly abandoned making notes; they were already too numerous to marshall sensibly. Page after page offers a telling vignette, a memorable phrase. At random, then, this miniature of life in the Raj: "The soldiers flirted in the public gardens. The officers played polo, sailed their yachts in the harbour, and sometimes went to cockfights, abetted by local Irishmen with fingers along the sides of their noses." In a few dozen words, the reader is taken there, seeing it as it was.

This is serious history, seriously told, always enlivened, never cheapened, by Morris's love of a quirky anecdote. There are many but one, concerning William Packenham from a passage on memorable Royal Navy commanders, must suffice: "... when an elderly lady at a civic luncheon asked him if he was married, he replied courteously, 'No, madam, no. I keep a loose woman in Edinburgh.'"

Pax Britannica is a worthy successor to the first in Jan Morris's brilliant trilogy, and an irresistible appetiser for the third.
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4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful flowing tutorial, 24 Nov 2013
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As part two of three following Heavens Command, essential reading. Look forward to the final lesson which I'm sure will give me more pleasure.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A whole lot of history, 8 Dec 2012
J (Ossett, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This volume is full of facts and anecdotes, not quite sure where the author is coming from.
One minute we are admiring the achievements of the empire builders ,the next paragraph is sneering at the whole of the concept.
I read this volume almost to the end, not sure whether I'll start the other two volumes.
Little sense of narrative, couldn't feel any empathy.
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Pax Britannica: The Climax of an Empire (Pax Britannica trilogy)
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