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Will the Sun Ever Set On The British Empire? (52 Weeks of Books Week Sixteen)

I go MIA for a couple of weeks, and what does that get me? Behind in posting reviews. Oy. Here is the review that should have been up two weeks ago.

Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order
And the Lessons For Global Power
Niall Ferguson, 2004, Basic Books

Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power is a history of British imperialism from the 16th century to the mid-20th century. Amongst other things, the book discusses privateering, the race to colonize Africa, and the occupation and administration of India as a colony.

Why I Read It:
This book was assigned reading for the British history course I did not complete.

Like most history books, this one is dense with information. It was easier for me to make my way through this particular book because I was familiar with many of the events Ferguson discusses in India. That's what happens when you take two semesters of Asian history in college. The difference in perspective was helpful in that it brought a new understanding to the things I already knew.

Where I felt a bit of disappointment (and, therefore, a disconnect) was in the smattering of discussion about Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. I understand a history writer has to make some brutal decisions about where to focus their attention. They do not want the argument they are trying to make to balloon into a five thousand page monstrosity. In this case, it felt like some vital components were missing. Australia gets a nod towards its initial status as a penal colony. How Ireland became a colony does not come up, but its struggles for independence in the 20th century do. New Zealand is mentioned a few times for its contributions to war efforts, and rewards for those efforts. I had trouble connecting some of the dots in his argument for that reason.

The discussion of empire is complicated, as is colonization. Empire is a solid look at how Great Britain rose and fell as the greatest power in the world. The British may not have gotten everything right, but there is no doubt that the country that used to rule a quarter of the world has made an impact on the world we live in today.

52 Weeks of Books Challenge? What is that? What book is Cat reviewing next week?


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