- Title: The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997
- Author: Piers Brendon
- ISBN: 9780307268297
- Page: 174
- Format: Hardcover
A magisterial work of narrative history, hailed in Britain as the best one volume account of the British Empire and an outstanding book The Times Literary Supplement.After the American Revolution, the British Empire appeared to be doomed But over the next 150 years it grew to become the greatest and most diverse empire the world has ever seen ranging from Canada toA magisterial work of narrative history, hailed in Britain as the best one volume account of the British Empire and an outstanding book The Times Literary Supplement.After the American Revolution, the British Empire appeared to be doomed But over the next 150 years it grew to become the greatest and most diverse empire the world has ever seen ranging from Canada to Australia to China, India, and Egypt seven times larger than the Roman Empire at its apogee Britannia ruled the waves and a quarter of the earth.Yet it was also a fundamentally weak empire, as Piers Brendon shows in this vivid and sweeping chronicle Run from a tiny island base, the British Empire operated on a shoestring with the help of local elites It enshrined a belief in freedom that would fatally undermine its authority Spread too thin, and facing wars, economic crises, and domestic discord, the empire would vanish almost as quickly as it appeared.Within a generation, the mighty structure collapsed, sometimes amid bloodshed This rapid demise left unfinished business in Rhodesia, the Falklands, and Hong Kong It left an array of dependencies and a ghost of an empire overshadowed by a rising America Above all, it left a contested legacy at best, a sporting spirit, a legal code, and a near universal language at worst, failed states and internecine strife.Brendon tells this story with brio and brilliance covering a vast canvas, he fills it with vivid firsthand accounts of life in the colonies and intimate portraits of the sometimes eccentric British officials who administered them It is all here from brief lives to telling anecdotes to comic episodes to symbolic moments Panoramic in scope and riveting in detail, this is narrative history at its finest.
Recent Comments "The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997"
Being a product of the British Empire, I have something of a soft spot for it. Piers Brendon doesn't. This massive book, which took me nearly a month to finish, has almost nothing good to say about history's biggest-ever empire, concentrating instead on land-grabs, exploitation of peoples and resources, on imperial arrogance, corruption and perfidy, on military and political blunders, atrocities of various kinds, acts of cowardice and betrayal, policies of neglect and policies of divide and rule [...]
EMPIRE OF ANECDOTES "The Decline and Fall of the British Empire" by Piers Brendon is an entertaining narrative history of the British Empire from the time of the American Revolution to the lowering of the Union Jack in Hong Kong barely a dozen years ago. The cover of the book itself nicely sums up Brendons iconoclastic attitude, at the top we have what might be termed a painting of the "Imperial Realism" school: a bunch of jaunty chaps from across the Empire marching to War (non whites at the ba [...]
In a sane country, Piers Brendon’s narrative of the British Empire from its apogee to its end would be required reading for America’s current empire builders, publicists and apologists. That not being the case, Brendon’s masterful study will be ignored in the United States, which is a pity, for it is a virtual catalogue of the types of delusional, conflicted thinking and behavior that both created the British empire and guaranteed its sloppy dissolution. As Brendon so aptly suggests, virtu [...]
This book deserves a 5 star rating because of the profound scholarship and research that dominates every page with such fine work. On the other hand, the massive negative tone of the book will distract the average reader, and the details about hundreds of people involved in the "decline," in one way or another, are overwhelming. Accurate, honest, scholarly, but not an easy read. Somehow, the contributions the British made to the world in so many important ways receive very little praise.
This is a book which is not without its frustrations. Superficially it is history in the most convetional sense, an account of what happened. Direct authorial comment is limited, and theories - heaven forfend! - are definitely to be kept at arm's length. Scratch the surface though and the author's position is both easy to defend and hard to argue with: in general Empire is a bad idea and the British Empire is no exception. Definitely no exception.Initially the book makes much of the parralels be [...]
Amazing history of the British Empire; Brendon has a genuine gift for the idiosyncratic detail, particularly the character detail. A dizzying array of whacked out racists, fumbling mamas boys, stranded intellectuals, brutal Kurtz-esque leaders, incompetents. At all times Brendon keeps focused on the Empire itself, not dipping into any of the major conflicts (the world wars) other than how they impacted the Empire itself. What's amazing about the book is not just the scope and scale of the Britis [...]
There are innumerable clichés about the British Empire - that it was acquired in a fit of absent-mindedness by shopkeepers, that it was dismantled in a relatively benign manner, that on the whole it was the best of the Empires. Reading this book I'm not sure I can agree with any of those statements.Spanning the years from 1781, just after the loss of the American colonies, up to 1997 and the handover of Hong Kong, this book is effectively one long history of acquisitiveness, greed, oppression, [...]
This is a wide-ranging and ambitious book about a topic that I personally find fascinating.Overall, it is terrific, so let me point out the one or two small flaws that keep me from a five star rating. Because the books range is so wide, naturally there are limits to what the author could cover thoroughly. So there are few places where I caught him taking some research "short cuts," i.e. using fictional accounts as examples without clearly indicating that they were fiction. If this were a history [...]
A sweeping and highly detailed look at the decline of the British Empire and its eventual demise. Major downfall: focuses too much on comparisons between the fall of the Roman and British Empires. Although this comparison serves as a great central theme for the book, it also simplifies the differences between the two great world empires. Most markedly, Brendan does not explore the place of colonialist agency in the British colonies. Also does not delve into the important postcolonial theories of [...]
Modeled after Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the book cuts a broad swath across modern history - perhaps too broad. The panoply of historical figures and events grows occasionally tedious, and the chapters have a definite pattern. One annoying habit the author has is the juxtaposition of two paragraphs, the second saying the exact opposite about a figure or event than the first. Nevertheless, this is a compellling story, as we watch the mighty British empire slowly stumble its wa [...]
I enjoyed this book immensely. It pulls together the saga of the end of the British Empire from the loss of the American colonies through to the independence of India and the African colonies and to the gradual slow reduction of the last few bits in the Caribbean, leaving the odd few islands around. Writing this review (February 2017) as the debate over the British exit from the EU plods along, it is both interesting and disturbing that large elements of the present governing party (Conservative [...]
I am not sure I am going to finish this book. It is rather doom-laden and hateful in its prose. The author sees portents of the crumbling of the British Empire in military success of the 18th century, which is rather a stretch since the empire did not really crumble till after World War II.I think I would simply prefer a more objective history of British Empire. The sound of the axe-grinding in the background of this book is deafening, and spoils the experience of reading it.
An understandably long history of the empire's crumble but extremely good. After reading this I wondered why we ever had anything to do with that country. Some of their behavior put the Nazis of WWII to shame. As an Eagle Scout I was particularly ashamed to read about the exploits of Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Scouting, while he was stationed in Africa.
One of the best history books ever. Period.
“The Decline and fall of the British Empire by Piers Brendon” The author provides birds eye view of the British Imperial Years, the rise to the fall. Although it is said "The Sun never sets on British Empire" and I wish Sun of Happiness and compassion never sets on any community or nation but this book is more of a guide to people in power and in public life. It lays exemplary thoughts on the table.The greed for Territorial aggrandizement, well although it speaks about British but may I say [...]
Couldn’t stomach the pompous, self-important prose that constantly presumes the reader already knows everything the text is talking about, which, for a history book, ya know, is kinda self-defeating. So I didn’t finish and opted for Lawrence James’ infinitely more readable and enlightening The Rise and Fall of the British Empire instead.
Thought this was quite a masterful work. I'm not all that knowledgeable about the British Empire, but after reading this book I feel like I lived through it! All of Brendon's anecdotes and historical bios are both entertaining and fascinating. Don't be put off by the size--just read it on an eReader and it'll go by quickly.
History at its finest.
At just under 700 small-font pages, Brendon does a thorough job of detailing many of the major episodes of the Empire's dissolution. These events are examined through the eyes of the Colonial and Foreign Offices, Viceroys, and civil service officers spread across a quarter of the globe and ruling over one-fifth of its population. There is no overarching theory about the causes and nature of the decline and fall of the Empire, although the narrative is unmistakably told through the lens of Edward [...]
This is the first serious history book I've ever read, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm not particularly impressed. The problems with Brendon's work, 170 pages in, seem to outweigh the strengths. Problems:1. Like his idol Gibbon, Brendon indulges in stultifying anti-Christian rhetoric. He denies it, but I think he does have some sort of "noble savage" complex that drives him to bitter sarcasm about even the most saintly of Victorians, David Livingstone. 2. He recognizes that the fall o [...]
Piers Brendon's "The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: 11781 - 1997" certainly will strike well-versed readers as a clever homage to Edward Gibbon's justly celebrated literary landmark on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. While it isn't nearly as vast in scope as Gibbon's work, it does come across as a brilliant bit of historical writing in its own right, tracing the rise and fall of a British Empire that claimed mastery of the world's oceans in the aftermath of the American Revolu [...]
I would usually do anything to avoid reading a book authored by someone called 'Piers' but this is a terrific account of the British Empire from the loss of the American colonies to the handing back of Hong Kong. Chapters on some of the thorniest issues including Suez and Rhodesia are particularly good while the author is especially excellent on India.Possibly because of the availability of sources, more time is devoted to the twentieth century - accounts of early trading missions are outside th [...]
Piers Brendon succeeds in 'The Decline and Fall of the British Empire' in conveying the various complexities and contradictions of the British Empire and those who ran it, arguing that it was these counter-acting forces that eventually led to its demise. Through the decades and centuries of British imperial rule Brendon again and again shows numerous officials, politicians, soldiers, businessmen and missionaries expanding the borders of the Empire - some with noble intentions, some without - all [...]
Blow by blow account of the trials and tribulations of the British Empire in all its raging, racist glory, from tip-top to low-as-it-gets. Of course, a people deeming themselves leaders of the "Free World" who yet pride themselves on calling themselves "subjects" (a right-bloody contradiction in terms) are to be nothing if not suspect. And all empires deserve to fall, that of the US included (if we take as our definition, an empire naught but a "tyranny upheld against a distant population by for [...]
Very interesting account of a subject that needs discussion - the rise and collapse of the British Empire. Piers Brendan is a very good writer, with a fine eye for personal details, and the kind of stories that make history come aive. He also is a first rate historian. His analysis of how Kenya and the Sudan evolved into very different colonies is fascinating. He traces it back to how they were conquered and settled in the firs place - one with White settlers and the other without. He also has a [...]
This was a pretty thorough if workmanlike review of the British decline from Yorktown onward. The sheer bodycount is pretty staggering when taken as a whole, and Churchill comes off as far less than heroic, desperate to hold on to Empire at almost any cost. It was interesting how labor governments pronounced themselves so opposed to Empire until they came into power, and claimed they had little choice but to continue government policies, else catastrophe for the affected parts of the world would [...]
Very much a mainstream 'narrative' history of the empire with very little, to no, deep analysis provided. This was disappointing to me because I ended up with Herodotus when I had been expecting Thucydides.Not a bad history as histories go but nothing particularly insightful.If you had not read a history of the Empire before this then the Decline and Fall is a good place to beginck solid actually. However, if you are aware of the 'narrative' then this is just giving the old bones a long tongue.M [...]
I'm not exactly sure what Piers Brendon hoped to accomplish with this chronicle. He has helpfully amassed a huge amount of detailed material on the history of the British empire -- no small undertaking -- but as other reviews have noted, he has presented the facts without analysis but with a critical undertone throughout. In other words, it is clear that Brendon believes that the British empire was bad but that's not a very thoughtful or helpful or worthwhile thesis, particularly when you take n [...]
The author keeps referring to the Edward Gibbon's classic (and, in fact, mentions it extensively throughout the book), but I'd say he takes more pages out of Suetonius, with too much emphasis being put on amusing (but sometimes denigrating) anecdotes from the lives of the leading historical figures, to the detriment of the narrative. We don't really need to hear Churchill was a heavy drinker - that's beyond the point, really (as are the antiques of Sir Wingate, and many more prominent politician [...]
Basically Jan Morris's British imperial trilogy condensed into one book, with a variety of post-60s emendations to the narrative (the end of Rhodesia, the Falklands War, the withdrawal from Hong Kong). Somehow breezy and thorough all at once, Brendon's history has that A.N. Wilson thing of wanting to wield an awesome satirical blade but being too small-"c" conservative for it to really stick. That said, there are some great zingers and anecdotes, even if the sexual nature of all too many of them [...]
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