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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harkening to the last, faint echoes of "Rule Britannia",
In 1914, the globe was spanned by the British Empire, on which the sun truly never set. As a boy, I collected stamps, and I was in awe of the number of faraway and exotic places that featured the likeness of the British monarch on their issues. It was, perhaps, these colorful bits of paper, along with the tales of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart, and King Arthur that engendered in me a lasting love for and fascination with Great Britain. I've visited the mother island on more than a dozen occasions; I long to be there now. Simon Winchester's OUTPOSTS took me in a different direction - outward to the last vestiges of Empire.
British Indian Ocean Territory, Tristan da Cunha, Gibraltar, Ascension Island, St. Helena, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, and the Pitcairn Islands. These, minus Hong Kong - OUTPOSTS was published in 1985 - are now all that are left of the once proud imperial possessions. Simon visited them over a three year period, except the inaccessible Pitcairn, and tells us about his odyssey in this sterling travel narrative.
Winchester, a Brit himself, is ambiguous about the Empire. On one hand, he apparently feels that the Crown's dominions, protectorates, trustee states, mandated territories and colonies were better left to go their separate ways, if only for the sake of political correctness. On the other hand, he maintains that, of all the European colonial empires, Britain's was the one administered with the greatest degree of good intentions. And, Simon isn't above becoming sentimental, as on Tristan da Cunha, a dependency of St. Helena, during a visit by the Colonial Governor:
"A bugle was blown, a banner was raised, a salute was made, an anthem was played - and the Colonial Governor of St. Helena was formally welcomed on to the tiniest and loneliest dependency in the remanent British Empire. I found I was watching it through a strange golden haze, which cleared if I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand: the children looked so proud, so eager to please, so keen to touch the hand from England, from the wellspring of their official existence."
The volume contains a rudimentary map of each colony visited, but no photographs - a deplorable deficiency in any travel essay, I think. I had to go onto the Web to satisfy my curiosity for visuals; the Tristan de Cunha, St.Helena, and Falkland Islands websites are particularly helpful in this regard.
OUTPOSTS is, of course, dated; Hong Kong has long since reverted to the mandarins in Peking. Luckily, I was able to visit the place in 1994 when it was still a jewel in the British crown. Oddly, the chapter on HK is surprisingly short considering the size and importance of the place at the time the book was written. Winchester didn't even mention one of the best E-rides in the world, the short Star Ferry trip from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.
One of the best reasons to read OUTPOSTS, if your interested in the subject, is the history of each colony that the author shares. And then there's the occasional trivia. Did you know, for example, that during the Falkland Islands War a team of Argentine frogman arrived in Spain with plans to blow up Royal Navy ships anchored off Gibraltar? They were arrested by the Spanish police on a tip from British Intelligence. And, do you know the location of the only land border between Holland and France? It's not where you might think.
OUTPOSTS grandly took me to places I shall likely never visit, and I'm indebted to Winchester for that.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outposts,
Having visited some of the far-flung places mentioned in Outposts I was really floored by Winchester's style and prose: he brings these remote islands alive whilst telling a very readable, factual yet humorous tale of the inhabitants of Britain's remaining colonies, their lives and the daily issues they face.
Brilliantly written (his journalistic background readily apparent) and extremely captivating, Outposts is a wonderful insight into these remote patriots on their remote outcrops.
Harry Ritchie writes on a similar line in his book The Last Pink Bits, yet his research is noticeably less than Winchester's, by far. His tone at the start even appears one of mild annoyance at having to travel the world on the subject (surely his own idea?!) to the extent that I actually wondered why he bothered. TV presenter and housewife heart- throb Ben Fogle also attempts a work entitled The Teatime Islands. Although a brave start to his writing career, I believe him better suited to his Prince William impression whilst presenting Animal Thingy on TV, affable though he seems.
Outposts is an extremely well-leafed book in my collection which I keep revisiting. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those interested in travel, empire and history.
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outposts,
By A Customer
After holidaying in Mauritius this year, I came across the story of Diego Garcia and how the islanders were so badly treated by the British Government. Then amazingly I picked up Outposts in the bookshop and discovered that the first place mentioned in Simon Winchester's book was Diego Garcia. I had to buy it to find out more. If you only buy the book to find out more about this travesty of justice, then it is well worth it and I would recommend it on that alone. However the book mentions other far flung parts the remains of the British Empire and it is the smaller, lonelier places that capture the imagination - St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha, and Ascension Island. Thank you to Simon Winchester for a book that satisfied my curiosity about these places and awakened an interest in finding out more about peolpe and places off the beaten track.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How fares the Empire? Read Outposts and find out!,
What remains of the British Empire today? `Outposts' takes a look at some of our last remaining rocks and islands which are scattered across the globe and which, for most of us anyway, we will probably never even visit.
`Outposts' is slightly dated having been originally published in the mid-eighties. It contains a now largely redundant chapter on Hong Kong which was ceded to the Chinese in 1997. Other references to old technology, customs and phrases also help to give the book an overall "dated" feel. But that being said; I still greatly enjoyed reading this book and discovering more about our remnant colonies.
Having an interest in the British Empire, I was aware that the places discussed in this book existed, but other than a quick browse on Wikipedia, I had never really studied these colonies in depth using a reputable source! I wanted a book which would take me on a tour of our last possessions, which would give me an idea on their current situation and place in the world; the view the colonists held of their "mother country" and finally, what the future held for these isolated places. I discovered `Outposts' when browsing for e-books and was immediately satisfied with my acquisition. This is the book I had been looking for and I couldn't wait to get stuck in.
Each colony has a designated chapter which describes the history, the geography and some of the local curiosities before culminating with a short outlook on the likely prospects of each place's future. The author writes in a wonderfully descriptive manner and captures each island's isolation from the rest of the world perfectly. I was amazed to discover that some dependencies have largely been neglected by the UK and was dismayed and ashamed at how some British citizens have been forcibly removed from their homes at the behest of the USA, when seeking locations to site their military bases.
This book is certainly an eye-opener and should be read by those in Central Government who are officially in charge of administering and managing these places. The book is recommended to all Empire enthusiasts, but particularly to those who are interested in reflecting and learning about the places left in the `Queen's Commonwealth' that are supposed to depend entirely on the UK for their protection and survival. As you will learn, some of these places have had to rely on their own ingenuity and resourcefulness for decades, which makes their involuntary estrangement form their `mother country' that little bit harder to bear.
Very educational, yet intriguing; this was a book which gave me many hours of informative reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
Really interesting read which shines light on the remaining population of the Empire. Although written just after the Falklands War it draws the reader into the lives of the far flung inhabitants of Britain's last remaining Overseas Territories.
4.0 out of 5 stars Barely skimming the surface,
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This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Kindle Edition)
Having read Simon Winchester' s later books it is a bit disconcerting to find so few footnotes. Pleasant to look back with rose tinted glasses at what set the British Empire apart from the other colonial powers.
5.0 out of 5 stars British Empire in decline,
Simon Winchester has travelled the world as part of his career as a journalist, and in this book he collates his travels to the remaining islands of Britain's once-mighty empire during the late-eighties. Of course, things have moved on since then - Hong Kong is now part of China, and the communications issues mentioned in many of the chapters (St Helena and the Pitcairns in particular) must have been improved with new digital technology. However, Winchester covers all the key issues affecting the islands at that particular time, and many are still relevant - the American militarisation of Bermuda, the war in the Falklands, the evacuation of Diego Garcia. Generally, Winchester is positive about he places that he visits but critical of the way that the British government's attitude and governance of the relics of empire. It's not an in-depth study of the empire - I was left wanting more after the Bermuda chapter in particular - but it is still a really interesting read, and many of his conclusions have withstood the passage of time.
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Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire by Simon Winchester