Top critical review
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Biased and misleading
on 4 October 2012
I was shocked and disappointed when I read this book. My two eldest kids love this series and on the whole I have found them informative and entertaining. There are inevitably some over-simplifications but few, if any, inaccuracies. But this book seems to wilfully present a view of the British Empire that not only focuses exclusively on the negatives, but also ignores the context - for example the fact that the British Empire followed on from the Spanish and Portuguese Empires and that Britain was competing with France and the Dutch to create theirs. I'm not suggesting for a moment that the terrible things that were done in the name of Empire should be glossed over, but they should at least be placed in context.
You want an example? Deary explains the circumstances (ie the brutish and stupid acts of the British) leading up to the Indian Mutiny, but he doesn't mention the Mutiny itself and the massacres of civilians. That's just perverse in my book. As Lawrence James points out in "Rise and Fall of the British Empire", only one Empire in history was dismantled voluntarily, and succeeded by a social club of ex members. And Niall Ferguson elegantly explains in "Empire" that the British Empire's contribution to stimulating world trade has create lasting benefits that must not be ignored.