3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An excellent introduction to the subject!,
This review is from: The British Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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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.