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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Total War History » The British Empire
Topic Subject:The British Empire
Agrippa 271
posted 02-24-12 04:48 PM EDT (US)         
I am looking for a good, unbiased, comprehensive book on the history of the British Empire. I'm not really all that familiar with that part of history, and it has had one of the greatest effects on modern history imaginable.

Any thoughts?

Death is a (vastly) preferable alternative to communism.
"Idiocy knows no national or cultural borders. Stupidity can strike anyone, anywhere." -- Terikel
posted 03-16-12 10:12 AM EDT (US)     1 / 2       
I am looking for a good, unbiased, comprehensive book on the history of the British Empire.
Good luck finding one.

The problem is that the empire was so big and lasted quite a while, in modern terms. There's fertile material in its history for writing a book on how evil the British empire was, but at the same time you could write a book on how 'gentlemanly' it was compared to other empires.

Any modern history is likely to find it hard to divorce modern attitudes that repressing people's independence etc is bad, or alternatively from indulging in nostalgia or romanticism.

I'm quite fond of Niall Ferguson's Empire, and you'd probably like it too, but he does have occasionally have a bit of an idiosyncratic viewpoint. He does do a good job of explaining the empire's growth and the economic basis of it (trade, sound finance, the first modern consumer society), but doesn't focus so much on the military or political side of things.

For a slightly different perspective, though they're fiction, I would still recommend reading the Flashman series of books by George Macdonald Fraser. They're written as 'discovered' memoirs, set during the mid to late eighteenth century, following a character who was involved in most major events of that time period, such as the First Afghan War, the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. They're thoroughly researched and most definitely not politically correct, making no bones in reflecting the prejudices of the time.

"Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French." - P.G. Wodehouse, The Luck of the Bodkins
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 03-17-12 09:45 AM EDT (US)     2 / 2       
I'm quite fond of Niall Ferguson's Empire
That's quite frankly an awful and decidedly neo-colonialist approach to the subject. The nonsense about the British empire being 'more gentlemanly' won't fly either, unless you're comparing it to the Assyrians or something. A good, and far more objective, approach is that of Jürgen Osterhammel in Kolonialismus (translated as Colonialism), which treats more than one empire (and not just empires, also smaller colonial states) but actually gives a balanced overview of imperialism and colonialism, and manages to compare the quality of life in various colonies without resorting to the ridiculous (and pointless) WHICH EMPIRE IS BEST nonsense that tends to crop up whenever teenagers talk about imperialism. It doesn't include any information on battles or whatever but if you want that you should probably look for a different type of publication anyway, such as Jeremy Black's Warfare in the 18th Century.

Edit: also I feel obliged to say that Flashman is not politically incorrect at all.

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Offt hin hinder.

[This message has been edited by Kor (edited 03-17-2012 @ 09:50 AM).]

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