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1 Burnside Great Britain- Politics and Empire

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997


The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 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.


Somewhere in the celestial academy where such matters are decreed, it was long since decided that the Roman Empire was the model for all its Western successors. Russia's czars borrowed their title from the Caesars and designated Moscow as a Third Rome (Constantinople being the second). Germany's kaisers donned the same robes, as 19th-century Berlin evolved into a facsimile of classical Rome. The Roman... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)


Widely acclaimed in Britain, this vivid and sweeping chronicle traces the small island nation's astonishing growth in the 150 years following the devastating setback it had suffered at the hands of the American colonists in 1781.

About the Author

Piers Brendon is the author of The Dark Valley, among other histories and biographies. He is the former Keeper of the Churchill Archives Centre and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



1 The World Turned Upside Down

The American Revolution and the Slave Trade

2 An English Barrack in the Oriental Seas

Britannias Indian Empire

3 Exempt from the Disaster of Caste

Australia, Canada and New Zealand

4 To Stop is Dangerous, to Recede, Ruin

The Far East and Afghanistan

5 Sacred Wrath

Irish Famine and Indian Mutiny

6 Spread the Peaceful Gospel — with the Maxim Gun

Towards Conquest in Africa

7 A Magnificent Empire under the British Flag

Cape to Cairo

8 Barbarians Thundering at the Frontiers

The Boer War and the Indian Raj

9 The Empire, Right or Wrong

Flanders, Iraq, Gallipoli and Vimy Ridge

10 Aflame with the Hope of Liberation

Ireland and the Middle East

11 Englishmen Like Posing as Gods

West and East

12 White Mates Black in a Very Few Moves

Kenya and the Sudan

13 Spinning the Destiny of India

The Route to Independence

14 That Is the End of the British Empire

Singapore and Burma

15 The Aim of Labour is to Save the Empire

Ceylon and Malaya

16 A Golden Bowl Full of Scorpions

The Holy Land

17 The Destruction of National Will

Suez Invasion and Aden Evacuation

18 Renascent Africa

The Gold Coast and Nigeria

19 Uhuru — Freedom

Kenya and the Mau Mau

20 Kith and Kin

Rhodesia and the Central African Federation

21 Rocks and Islands

The West Indies and Cyprus

22 All Our Pomp of Yesterday

The Falklands and Hong Kong





Product Details

Brendon, Piers
Europe - Great Britain - General
World - General
World - Colonial Studies
World - Post-Colonial Studies
Imperialism -- History.
Great Britain Colonies History.
Great britain
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.46x6.54x1.90 in. 2.71 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » Politics and Empire
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » General
History and Social Science » World History » British Empire
History and Social Science » World History » England » General

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 Used Hardcover
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Product details 816 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307268297 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Widely acclaimed in Britain, this vivid and sweeping chronicle traces the small island nation's astonishing growth in the 150 years following the devastating setback it had suffered at the hands of the American colonists in 1781.
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