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4.6 out of 5 stars22
4.6 out of 5 stars
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James' reading of History and English shows throughout this book. He has chronologically portrayed the rise and fall of the British Empire with snippets of poems and literature - relevant to the time. The book gives the ignorant a good introduction to the empire and the underlying reasons for it's creation and fall. James never leaves the 'beaten track' in this narrative, but provides almost infinite ideas for further reading within this vast subject. Excellent!!!!
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VINE VOICEon 30 October 2001
In these post imperial days it seems that we are too guilt ridden to view the history of the British Empire in context. Mr. James sets out to bring us the history of the empire in terms which though perhaps not totally impartial (he appears to believe on balance it was a good thing)are not jaundiced by dogma.
The British were never completely comfortable with the concept of empire. Driven by the two goals of trade and settlement, the British Empire almost came about by accident. Mr. James is excellent at showing how British attitudes towards empire changed throughout the imperial period. Starting from almost indifference at the beginning, to national obession by the end of the 19th century. The story of the British Empire is one which has touched the lives of almost a 1/4 of the worlds population. Mr. James makes the point that the empire might have died, but that it's influence will linger for a long while yet. A worthwhile read
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on 22 June 2001
The British Empire is a vast and complex historical subject. However, Lawrence James manages easily to detail its growth and decline in a manner that is not only highly informative, but thourghly enjoyable to read. His writing style is laid back and the sheer volume of historical detail he packs into every chapter is breathtaking. His selective use of seemingly insignificant anecdotes draws the reader into the book, even provoking the occasional snigger (something not always associated with history!). "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" is a fantastic study that anybody with even a fleeting interest in Britain's Imperial history and legacy should read.
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on 25 June 2000
The history of the British Empire has always been somewhat controversial: some of it good, some of it bad. This book clearly and articulately discusses the origins of Empire, its growth and its inevitable demise. Lawrence James treats the issue intelligently, and comes to some outstanding conclusions. And not only that, we get to learn some of the more subtle reasons behind anti-imperialism in countries such as the United States and the book covers a multitude of other topics. A must-read indeed!
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on 17 March 2002
I was lucky enough to be taught by Mr James, a wit and gentlemen of a rare order. It was a real treat reading this survey of the British Empire. I remember Mr James as a brilliant story teller, with a deep love and respect for the Empire. His book confirms these impressions and provides not only a scholarly survey of this monumental subject, but finds room for a myriad of telling detail brilliant reconstructed in sparkling prose butressing his overarching themes. There surely are few books of such wide canvess which are so readable and satisfying. The book illuminates many facets of the English nation and its peoples which for example Paxman's "The English" never quite pins down and in that sense is very valuable too. Don't miss "Raj",a history of the English in India, another subject very close to Mr James's heart as I recall.
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on 7 September 2000
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is a majestic sweep through four hundred years of Imperial history. In relating the events as they actually happened and in the context of contemporary events, and not bowing to the disapproving gaze of post-colonial Marxist revisionists, James has produced a breathtaking book that creates and follows through a lucid argument and makes the reader want to turn the page to find out more. The breadth of the book is amazing and serves as an excellent jumping-off pad for more detailed study of specific aspects of imperial history.
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on 27 August 2014
This book was excellent in exploring the British Empire. I felt the author wrote it in a very interesting and throught-provoking way and would recormend this to people studing the British Empre or for causal readers such as myself.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2014
Having always had a passing interest in history, it seemed a no-brainer that, at some point, I would want to delve a bit deeper into the Imperial past of my own country. The subject of the British Empire is one of great contention amongst those who know a lot more about it than I. Some would argue that the Empire is symbolic of a truly great project of delivering civilisation to a 'backward' people, while others will argue that it was nothing more than a project of oppression and exploitation as the British Empire sought to exploit the resources of the colonies while giving back very little to its indigenous people. Wherever you stand on the debate, one thing is for certain, covering such a topic that spans 400+ years is no easy feat, but it is one that Lawrence James does with ease.

His style of writing is conversational, yet this does not sacrifice the academic qualities of the book. Providing the necessary detail, coupled with the easy to follow style makes it remarkably accessible for any casual reader who may wish to gain an introduction on the subject, its key players and the significant events that not only helped expand the Empire, but those that ultimately led to its fall. It would be reasonable to expect that, when writing about such a subject, there may be an expression or a hint of the writer's opinion on the subject, yet James betrays no illusions as to his own thoughts and feelings on the subject or this or that event.

I found that, even at times, though the subject may be a big one and there is certainly a lot of information to take in, I just couldn't put this down. This was my introduction to the subject of the British Empire's history, but I've still yet to form a concrete stance on the subject. Thanks to Lawrence James' insight, it's given me a lot of cause for thought on the subject and at present I sit somewhere in the middle about the nature of the Empire, its achievements, and its impact on the world. One thing is for certain, if you have even a passing interest in the subject, this is an absolute MUST READ.
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on 31 May 2015
A comprehensive and insightful explanation of British Imperial History. Well written and well balanced. The British were at times harsh and imperialist, but at other times they showed foresight and demonstrated good government. This book presents both sides in their historical context. It is the sort of book I would like to read again and again. Why isn't it available for Kindle though? Get real, this is the 21st century.
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on 12 September 2014
Very interesting and well written. I was captivated whilst reading it.
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