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on 15 March 2017
I received this book punctually. It was in excellent condition. I appreciate the book mark very much! Thank you!
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on 24 July 2013
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".

Its as if someone has handed him a list and said 'you really need to include these people' and so he added it to the text! Had he academically considered what people like Nkrumah and Padmore wrote and more importantly how Gandhi & Nkrumah acted this book would be a significantly better read. As it is British blushes are spared and anti-colonial struggle in the colonies which some of the above people initiated in is ignored. This is a history of the British Empire from a pronounced English perspective where independence was 'given' not fought for, 'desirable' not necessary.

Crucially for me he introduces us to little evidence for his assertions on the nature of the British Empire, sometimes going pages without a reference or citing other authority. Maybe because it is all 'orthodox'?! Other 'Very Short Introductions' give a sense of being at the cutting edge of the current field. This one reads, by it's own admission, from the middle and so is bland, safe and from an historian's perspective not all that well argued or structured.
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VINE VOICEon 17 October 2013
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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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VINE VOICEon 15 July 2013
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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. He told me that he was amazed at being treated as an equal, that he no longer had to step off the pavement when a white person went by and that if one had the money then one could dine in any restaurant and enter any barbers for a hair cut without first checking whether it had a sign up "Whites Only". He was of the view that in S Africa he would have never been more than a second-class citizen but in Britain he was seen as and felt like an equal.
His most florid praise, however, was for the English, and I'm sorry that they cannot see themselves through his eyes: for they would and should be very proud of the people they are and what they've built - whether in spite of or because of Empire!

My dad never forgot his gratitude towards the English and aspired daily to be more like them.
Now, of course this was a long time ago and I accept his views may seem as mistaken as they are dated - but something turned that little `coloured' boy ( his words ) into someone who aspired to Englishness all his life; who was proud to gain a caring profession and who was more than happy to go to war for. His only regret that they would not let him fly a Spitfire!
I've yet to find an account in any book that will clarify this for me, but whether we hate or find good things in discussing Empire - I have to accept that for my dad at the very least, born thousands of miles away when it had long passed its peak - there must have been something in it! With thanks.
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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2013
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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.

As ever with this series, the work that has gone into it is excellent and we have much to be grateful to the author for making it a one evening read, that enriches the reader and starts us off on further study.
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A superb and very readable guide to all aspects of the British Empire - its history, characteristics, how it was (and is) represented in the media, its legacy - and the burning question of the day, whether or not it was a "good thing".

It is refreshing that the book avoids being a simple chronological study of the Empire from start to finish (though one chapter does tell the story), but in each chapter looks at individual aspects of the Imperial project. As a result the book reads more like a collection of essays than a single study - and is no worse for that.

As well as standing alone, the book is also a great jumping off point for further study - exactly as you would hope for a "short introduction" - with a range of other studies cited and discussed.

In short this book is exactly what it sets out to be. A short, informative, thought-provoking and very satisfying read in itself - and an excellent place to begin a more detailed investigation of the topic. Thoroughly recommended.

Review by John Birch
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I would say that this is a rather ambitious effort, considering the volume of space given in the series that is `A Very Short Introduction', over to a topic that can be a `mine field' of different ideological view points and political bias, but the author does a reasonable job of giving a balanced review of the topic. You have to bear in mind that is more of taster. Those people wanting a more comprehensive over view will need to look to other texts on the subject.
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on 5 September 2014
Perfect for a quick introduction with a mindset that blows your mind. For anyone who wishes to read a quick yet detailed book
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on 18 August 2016
Bought as I'm studying A326 Empire 1492 - 1975 in October. Fab little book for introduction of the British empire
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VINE VOICEon 17 October 2013
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As someone who has read a large number of efforts on British colonisation, this comes across as a very good introduction of the Empire. All of the major historical landmarks from a global scale are covered but there are some flashpoints that get only a small mention,

This effort is hamstrung by its brevity and it is one of the few efforts where the Wikipedia entry is equal if not better. I will admit that this is probably because there is instant access to constituent entries. (I know which choice I would direct a student to for scholarship). I would use book only to pique the interest.
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