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The British Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 30 May 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199605416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199605415
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 1.8 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

Professor Jackson has crafted a wide-ranging yet remarkably short introduction that successfully condenses recent scholarship without overwhelming the non-expert. (N.C. Fleming, University of Worcester, Political Studies Review)

Jackson's pithy survey will be a welcome guide for anyone wanting to explore the wider picture without drowning in the literature. (BBC History magazine)

About the Author

Ashley Jackson is Professor of Imperial and Military History at King's College, London. His books include Mad Dogs and Englishmen: a Grand Tour of the British Empire at its Height (Quercus, 2009), The British Empire and the Second World War, (Hambledon Continuum, 2006); and Churchill (Quercus, 2011).


Customer Reviews

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By writeallthereviews TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am a big fan of the "Very Short..." series of books. They are well-researched and well edited pieces of accomplished academic text which allow the reader to dip in to and briefly immerse themselves in a subject matter to a good and basically conversant level.

Whilst the subject matter surrounding the British Empire can understandably be a little dry at times, it is a fascinating read given the country's decline in recent history as a player on the world stage. A useful and uncontroversial addition to newcomers to general British history.
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Having read several of the 'Very Short Introductions' I came expecting to be surprised, informed and stimulated and maybe finish feeling a little more knowledgeable. My expectations weren't met this time, partly because I studied the British Empire at University (over a decade ago so I'd still expected something new). As the writer explains this book is in line with the English academic orthodoxy on the topic. So as a precis of English academic opinion it is adequate, but not as exciting or engaging as other books in the series.

Jackson acknowledges the difficulties about writing about Empire (and he means the History of the British Empire he doesn't take multi-disciplinary approach). His solution - trying to give a 'hard edged' summary in an area where everything is caveated - is not entirely successful. It could be seen as an excuse not to address significant critiques of Empire and the subject of 'Imperial History' (Jackson's specialism) itself. There is no historiography in the volume which other 'Very Short Introductions' don't neglect and often use as a framework to dissect and explain current thought.

An example might be his use of Edward Said who is quoted - but from an autobiographical paper illustrating the racism of British Officials. There is no mention of the key significance of Edward Said's explosive impact on academia and the debate his seminal 'Orientalism caused. Similarly he quotes a long list of people who 'wrote' on Empire:

"Franz Fanon, Gandhi, Lenin, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Naipaul, Orwell, Bob Marley, George Padmore, Lenard Wolfe and Kwame Nkrumah".
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A Very Short Introduction to the British Empire is the first book I’ve read in this series. For this topic, I was going to make my starting point Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, but I’m glad I didn’t. Indeed, historian Ashley Jackson cuts Ferguson down to size, and illustrates empire history’s vast complexity, at odds with Ferguson’s “it was basically good” conclusion. In addition to providing an excellent overview, this volume reads like an extended argument, one which is super intelligent and engaging. In fact, even though this book has just 170 pages, it’s one of the best histories I’ve ever read, causing me to order the series’ editions on Carl Jung and Northern Ireland. Here’s to hoping they’re up to the same high standard. Five stars.

Troy Parfitt is the author of War Torn: Adventures in the Brave New Canada
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Once upon a time, Britain ruled 25% of the land mass of the world, and 20% of its population. There was red everywhere on the world map, and the empire was supported by Britain's supreme navy and merchant marine. That 20% of the population was half a billion people, and that navy was from the world's only true super-power. All of this changed with the second world war - what was in decline fell apart at the seams.

Part of the story is our modern day guilt of our past imperialism. The question is asked "Did Britain wreck the world?" We were playing with it and dropped the ball! The book discusses why the empire was British - what was so special about Britain in the first place, and what was the truth behind those racial divides that drew lines across the empire?

Key characteristics of the empire are discussed, such as trade and the huge economic block that was a result of having an empire. The cultural effect of establishing the superiority of British institutions and history was enormous. The huge scope of our political influence and the strategic dominance of the British military forces all played their part.

There is discussion of the engines of expansion - technology and world influence among them. There is also a minor mention of the church's role (which is probably too minor, even for an introductory work like this).

Much time is given to discussing the rise and fall of the empire and a good context is put into this area. Probably the importance of this is a discussion of that current word that we all value - 'legacy' - and the good and the bad of all that has gone before is included in this section.

The book ends with a section detailing recommendations for further reading which is a valuable addition to the scope of the work.
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By Duncurin VINE VOICE on 15 July 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nice little book, which is suitable for anyone wanting to get up to speed quickly and gain more than a basic understanding of the essence of the British Empire. Small it may be, but neither word nor space have been wasted in this excellent little volume which may well leave one thirsting for more about Empire and indeed in the other titles in the series which seem just as tantalising.

It is often said that if you have 50 GPs in a room then you'll get 51 opinions. I suspect this very much applies with all things to do with our Empire and there will be a vast spectrum of views and beliefs, some held very passionately. This book leans just a little towards the modern stance where we are seen as absolute self-serving rotters and that the world has been lucky to be rid of us.
I must confess to falling into the Andrew Roberts, Niall Ferguson and Peter Clarke (last 1000 days of the B.E.) view of things: for the thing that tantalises me are three things that my dad, who was not born British, told me had happened when he was a little boy.

The first was HMS Hood visiting Capetown bay. He told me that everyone ran down to catch a glimpse of the world's most powerful `battleship'. He told me that people could not help but marvel at the financial, industrial and technical expertise that could have sent it and not only this: coupled unimaginable power to a benign, friendly and welcoming image.
The second when as a young man someone broke the cue or cue ball in their leisure centre and they waited weeks and weeks for a replacement to be shipped from the heart of Empire and this was the finest that could be made and that money could buy.
The third was when he came to Edinburgh at the age of 17 to study in medicine.
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