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This review is from: All the Countries We've Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To (Hardcover)
The author describes this as a "modest little book" but the premise is interesting and it is a good read as long as you are not bored by military history. Perhaps its publication signals the end of post-imperial embarrassment. Any remaining members of the League of Empire Loyalists will find it offensive, feeling that it belittles the serious business of acquiring and retaining an empire. For the rest of us it is a populist read that is informative and entertaining.
The book has 215 pages plus a short conclusion containing maps of where we have been and a set of black and white photos of military statues in London. The recipient countries are arranged alphabetically into 12 chapters starting from "Afghanistan to Burundi" through to "Yemen to Zimbabwe", which is quite an imperial stretch. For decoration the first page of each chapter has a watermark of a Britannia figure, which is a good idea except that the watermark is too heavy and makes the reading of the first page more difficult.
The author deliberately stretches the definition of "invaded" to include short military interventions and actions by pirates, privateers and armed explorers. He also concentrates on the more unusual and less well known actions. As he says: "This isn't so much supposed to be an account of our invasions, rather it's intended to whet the readers' appetite to go in search of more information elsewhere". The readers themselves will have to decide where they go as this book has no bibliography. Some examples from the 191 entries are given below.
BURKINA FASO was formerly called Upper Volta and was a French colony. Originally it was a collection of African kingdoms. In 1898 the British went to the aid of one of these kingdoms against the French. In the meantime, at the Conference of Paris, it was decided that the whole area should be in the French sphere of influence. The British withdrew their protection.
KOREA: The British were part of the UN force during the Korean War of the early 1950s. At one time British troops found themselves deep into North Korea. In 1885 three British warships established a base on an island off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula. This was a counterbalance to the Russians in Vladivostok. The British abandoned this base two years later.
QATAR today is a small nation state in the Persian Gulf. It is immensely rich due to vast natural gas reserves, allowing it to pay for the World Cup and the Al Jazeera TV channels. In 1820 an East India Company ship bombarded the Qatari capital, Doha, destroying much of the town. It was shelled again in 1841. In 1868 the British imposed a settlement between Qatar and neighbouring Bahrain. In 1916 British troops marched into Qatar. A treaty was signed giving Britain control over Qatari foreign affairs in return for British protection. Qatar became free of British control in 1971.
SYRIA: Troops from the British Isles were involved in the First Crusade in Syria in 1097. In 1840 Britain had a naval involvement during the Syria War. At the end of the First World War the British entered Syria in force with Allenby, Lawrence of Arabia and the fighters of the Arab Revolt. The British were back in the Second World War.
This is a book for the nation-state maven and stamp collector in us all. Reading it from cover to cover could be a bit tedious, especially as the entries are alphabetical and therefore only connected to their neighbours by their initial letters. However, it is a good book to dip in and out of and, although not too serious, it is still informative and well worth reading.