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Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the…
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Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British

by Jeremy Paxman

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Enjoyed this. Quite anecdotal but it never gets bogged down in one period of time. This gives you a nice starter on the British Empire. Worth a read to whet your appetite. ( )
  polarbear123 | Apr 19, 2016 |
The writing style is breezy and very accessible. It gets the broad sweep of history right and is reasonably good on mentalities. However I found the detail work suspect. I am not expert on most of the periods and places but found nagging little errors on the ones I do know cold. Nothing that ruins the book, but do not use it as a source to win bar bets or correct wikipedia articles. ( )
  agingcow2345 | Jan 21, 2013 |
It is sad that Paxman never answers the questions his subtitle poses: What Ruling the World Did to the British? would have been a wonderful topic. He actually starts fine - in an Irish variant to Yali's question: "Are you a Brit?" Uttered angrily in the 1970s in Northern Ireland, it could have made Paxman think about why some of the conquered weren't so happy about British rule. Instead, in classic Englishman now abed fashion, he only dreams about the adventures of empire-building. What follows is mostly a chronological Flashman-inspired tale of fops, conquerors and explorers coloring the map of the world red (with the native's blood and the United Kingdom's poor).

Paxman fails to understand it, but it is demography that dooms the British Empire. The inexhaustible fount of Irish, Welsh, Scots and Northern English could easily send battalion after battalion abroad, the progress in medicine in the undeveloped countries meant that suddenly they had a competitive edge against the British. The local upper class also learned that kicking out the few colonial administrators would allow them full access to the local wealth (instead of sending it to the mother country).

Today, it is China which could easily send a few millions of its surplus young men abroad to develop the unchartered parts of the world, leaving the Brits to dream about glories past (if one can speak about glory). Paxman seems to think that the phantom pain of the empire is holding back the country: "The most corrosive part of this amnesia is a sense that because the nation is not what it was, it can never be anything again. If only the British would bring a measure of clarity to what was done in their country’s name, they might find it easier to play a more useful and effective role in the world." To the horror of Mr Paxman, the dismantling of the empire isn't finished yet. Scotland and Wales (as well as Northern Ireland) are still looking for more autonomy - until the question "are you a Brit?" makes no sense at all. ( )
  jcbrunner | Aug 31, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670919578, Hardcover)

The influence of the British Empire is everywhere, from the very existence of the United Kingdom to the ethnic composition of our cities. It affects everything, from Prime Ministers' decisions to send troops to war to the adventurers we admire. From the sports we think we're good at to the architecture of our buildings; the way we travel to the way we trade; and, the hopeless losers we will on, and the food we hunger for, the empire is never very far away. In this acute and witty analysis, Jeremy Paxman goes to the very heart of empire. As he describes the selection process for colonial officers ('intended to weed out the cad, the feeble and the too clever') the importance of sport, the sweating domestic life of the colonial officer's wife ('the challenge with cooking meat was 'to grasp the fleeting moment between toughness and putrefaction when the joint may possibly prove eatable") and the crazed end for General Gordon of Khartoum, Paxman brings brilliantly to life the tragedy and comedy of Empire and reveals its profound and lasting effect on our nation and ourselves.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:47 -0400)

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"The influence of the British Empire is everywhere, from the very existence of the United Kingdom to the ethnic composition of our cities. It affects everything, from Prime Ministers' decisions to send troops to war to the adventurers we admire. From the sports we think we're good at to the architecture of our buildings; the way we travel to the way we trade; and, the hopeless losers we will on, and the food we hunger for, the empire is never very far away. In this acute and witty analysis, Jeremy Paxman goes to the very heart of empire. As he describes the selection process for colonial officers ('intended to weed out the cad, the feeble and the too clever') the importance of sport, the sweating domestic life of the colonial officer's wife ('the challenge with cooking meat was 'to grasp the fleeting moment between toughness and putrefaction when the joint may possibly prove eatable") and the crazed end for General Gordon of Khartoum, Paxman brings brilliantly to life the tragedy and comedy of Empire and reveals its profound and lasting effect on our nation and ourselves. "--Book jacket.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0670919594, 0670919586

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