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Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (Pax Britannica) Paperback – 3 Feb 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New Ed edition (3 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571194664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571194667
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 665,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'One of our finest writers on Empire - alive to its glory, yet with a beady eye for the corruptions and failures which were at its heart, along with the dreams.' --Observer.

How many professional historians can write books that give so much pleasure?' --Sunday Times.

'A tour de force, majestically sure of touch, rich in tone, comprehensive in range.' --Irish Times.

'An unorthodox masterpeice, a wise, witty, romantic love-hate affair with a dying empire.' --New York Times Book Review.

'Excellent ... A fine historical, geographical and general knowledge course combines, enlivened with little graffiti - the epitaphs, poems, diary notes, letters, oaths, hymns and exclamations of those astonishing people, who, with their bloody-minded benevolence, changed the face of the world.' --Glasgow Herald.

'Dazzling ... the detailed sense of place is superb.' --The Economist --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress is the first instalment in Jan Morris's classic Empire Trilogy. It vividly portrays the rise of Queen Victoria and the British Empire, their journey across the globe and their search for Imperial progress. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating and thought-provoking account of the almost inadvertent rise of the British empire. However I can't recommend the Kindle edition - it's continually spoiled by typos and misspellings: "Icelanders" for "Irelanders", "feet" for "fact" and "Either" for "father" are some of the more obvious ones. But worse, almost all the footnotes are numbered 1. The link to the footnote seems to work, but the link back doesn't - so you end up spending ages trying to find your place again. Or just not following the footnotes.

Great read, beautifully written - just buy the book not the Kindle edition.
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Format: Paperback
The British Empire at one time encompassed a quarter of the globe, from countries as immense and diverse as India to ones as tiny as Tristan da Cunha. Jan Morris has the rare skill of not only painting the large canvas of history, but also of illuminating for her readers the daily life of distant quarters of the Victorian empire. She writes with warmth and affection of Zulus and Maoris, of Quebecois and Boers, of explorers suffering terrible ordeals, of be-whiskered colonial politicians in London and dear old Queen Victoria herself. She writes with a pleasing absence of political correctness, seeing the Empire not only in the currently fashionable way as an instrument of exploitation, but also as a power for good. She introduces us to colonialists dedicated to the welfare of their subjects, as well as those out to feather their own nests. And the texture of the book is typical Jan Morris - crafted in such a way that you at last understand what it was all about, and why it happened.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The period here is 1837-1897, the reign of Queen Victoria. Sixty Glorious Years, as the film was called. Jan Morris takes three books to trace the rise of the British Empire, its years of ascendancy, and its decline. Heaven's Command, the first of the trilogy, records how religious evangelism was embraced by the profit motive, leading swiftly to the conclusion that both were made easier once conquest had been achieved.

So the map of the globe was painted red, sometimes with vision, sometimes with well-meaning paternalism, sometimes with brutal ruthlessness, almost always with courage and conviction. Morris is clear-eyed: the history of imperialism is of good and bad and all shades in between. While India is all pomp and ceremony, South Africa is a muddle, Ireland is a near disaster. If the breadth of the narrative is impressive, it is the anecdotal evidence that lingers when the book is closed. The author's great skill is in searching out the detail that illuminates the canvas. Then there is the prose - sharp, precise language organised in long, elegant sentences (pace the note below for Kindle readers).

Unlike in some histories, humour lurks. In Fiji, for example, "shipwrecked sailors were assumed to have been discarded by the gods, and were accordingly eaten as a matter of course." How much more readily would one have been engaged by the subject at school had such as Heaven's Command been standard text books.

Five stars, then, without hesitation - but an important note must be appended for Kindle readers. My version was littered with typographical errors, many inexplicable, some impossible to translate. There were no fewer than eight examples of "in fact" appearing as "in feet." Or "The Lard gave and the Lord batb taken away.
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By A Customer on 22 Oct. 2000
Format: Paperback
For someone who never got to study the British empire at school (far too politically incorrect and besides, I was more interested in 20th century stuff), this is a superb introduction to the subject. Probably not rigourous enough for anyone who knows anything, Jan Morris uses a sequence of anecdotes and vibrant case studies to track the rise and rise of the Empire, without ever giving in to being triumphalist or one sided. You'll have to excuse me now; I'm off to read the next book in the series!
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Format: Paperback
Jan Morris' style is to ignore the "big issues", which often only become apparent in retrospect, but instead to concentrate on individuals, good and bad, in their own contemporary setting. This approach may be too anecdotal for some people, but, unlike most academic historians, JM is a superb English stylist, which makes this book a pleasure to read. Rereading this book after many years, it occurs to me that if our politicians had read Chapter 5 on the disastrous British retreat from Kabul [1842] we would probably not have our troops in Afganistan now.
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Format: Paperback
The great thing about Jan Morris is that she brings so many different qualities to her books. Nostalgia, humour, insight, and wonderful storytelling, all of which are present in abundance in this marvelous account of the Genesis of that most remarkable of Empires. It was an Empire that was cruel, repressive, civilising, gracious and compassionate depending on which subject of the Crown was dispensing the rules to the natives. Being a native of one of the former colonies (Ireland) I am all too familiar with the negative aspects of the Empire. Our famine is at once an epic tragedy and also an indictment of the British Empires lack of compassion. On the other hand when you read this book you cannot but admire the great energy and sacrifice of so many loyal British subjects who lived their lives many miles from their native shores and their families in the belief that they were not only doing their duty for queen and country, but also in the belief that they were genuinely bettering the lives of those around them, primarily by spreading Christianity and Civilisation. I think what Jan Morris succeeds in doing is illustrating the futility of trying to sum up the Empire. It has too many sides to it, some good, some bad, but always so very very interesting. I cant wait to read the other two books in the trilogy.
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