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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid panoramas of Empire, 6 Jun 2012
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The theme of Heaven's Command, the history of the British Empire from 1837 to 1897, is a huge and potentially unmanageable one. Jan Morris's approach is to present a sequence of scenes, among others the first Afghan war, the suppression of the Thugs, the Jamaican uprising, the Irish famine, the quest for the source of the Nile, the Zulu war and the defeat by the Boers at Mujuba Hill. She evokes these events almost cinematically, and has a wonderful skill in describing landscapes, buildings, weather, clothes, sounds. She described the purpose of the book as:

'to make people feel that they've had a window thrown open for them, to let them survey for an hour or two the whole wide panorama of a world that's gone'.

The metaphor of the book as a panorama, or rather a sequence of panoramic views, is an apt one as her evocations are intensely visual. She is broadly sympathetic to the imperial venture, but this does not blind her to its brutality: one of the saddest chapters deals with the fate of the Tasmanian aborigines.

It is a marvellously entertaining book, vigorously read in the audio version by Roy McMillan.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History made fascinating, 27 Jun 2011
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When I was at school, I thought History was boring. Given the books and teachers I had, my views were probable justified. Jan Morris, on the other hand, makes it all fascinating.

This is a thoughtful and fair-minded account of perhaps the most important stage in bringing Britain to where it is today.

When Victoria came to the throne, she and Britain did not have and in general did not want an Empire. But over the next 60 years, an amazing conglomeration of powerful, interesting, and sometimes fairly weird characters, each with their own often conflicting aims, ambitions and methods, assembled the "empire upon which the sun never sets" and made Victoria the ruler of a large part of the world. Some wanted to make money, some wanted to bring order and peace, some wanted to uphold "human rights", some wanted to spread their religion. There was no grand plan or overarching strategy or controlling mastermind, but somehow it all happened. Read all about it (or listen) here.

There were disasters too, of course - perhaps less well reported in the ordinary histories. Ominously, the greatest and bloodiest failure was the misguided attempt to bring order and harmony to Afghanistan!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 Sep 2014
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Simply terrific. A tour de force.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Morris: Heaven's Command (Unabridged) (Pax Britannica), 11 Dec 2012
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This was bought for a Christmas present not yet given, but I know that it is an excellent audio book
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