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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harkening to the last, faint echoes of "Rule Britannia"
In 1914, the globe was spanned by the British Empire, on which the sun truly never set. As a boy, I collected stamps, and I was in awe of the number of faraway and exotic places that featured the likeness of the British monarch on their issues. It was, perhaps, these colorful bits of paper, along with the tales of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart, and King Arthur that...
Published on April 13, 2006 by Joseph Haschka

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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read; but slightly outdated
Simon Winchester writes about his journeys to most of Britain's remaining overseas colonies, from Gibraltar to the Falklands to the military-dominated British Indian Ocean Territory.

The early chapters (his experiences being forced to journey from Spain to Gibraltar by way of Tangier, his attempted invasion of Diego Garcia in the B.I.O.T, his journey to...
Published on February 17, 2005 by Gary M. Greenbaum


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harkening to the last, faint echoes of "Rule Britannia", April 13, 2006
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This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
In 1914, the globe was spanned by the British Empire, on which the sun truly never set. As a boy, I collected stamps, and I was in awe of the number of faraway and exotic places that featured the likeness of the British monarch on their issues. It was, perhaps, these colorful bits of paper, along with the tales of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart, and King Arthur that engendered in me a lasting love for and fascination with Great Britain. I've visited the mother island on more than a dozen occasions; I long to be there now. Simon Winchester's OUTPOSTS took me in a different direction - outward to the last vestiges of Empire.

British Indian Ocean Territory, Tristan da Cunha, Gibraltar, Ascension Island, St. Helena, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, and the Pitcairn Islands. These, minus Hong Kong - OUTPOSTS was published in 1985 - are now all that are left of the once proud imperial possessions. Simon visited them over a three year period, except the inaccessible Pitcairn, and tells us about his odyssey in this sterling travel narrative.

Winchester, a Brit himself, is ambiguous about the Empire. On one hand, he apparently feels that the Crown's dominions, protectorates, trustee states, mandated territories and colonies were better left to go their separate ways, if only for the sake of political correctness. On the other hand, he maintains that, of all the European colonial empires, Britain's was the one administered with the greatest degree of good intentions. And, Simon isn't above becoming sentimental, as on Tristan da Cunha, a dependency of St. Helena, during a visit by the Colonial Governor:

"A bugle was blown, a banner was raised, a salute was made, an anthem was played - and the Colonial Governor of St. Helena was formally welcomed on to the tiniest and loneliest dependency in the remnant British Empire. I found I was watching it through a strange golden haze, which cleared if I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand: the children looked so proud, so eager to please, so keen to touch the hand from England, from the wellspring of their official existence."

The volume contains a rudimentary map of each colony visited, but no photographs - a deplorable deficiency in any travel essay, I think. I had to go onto the Web to satisfy my curiosity for visuals; the Tristan de Cunha, St.Helena, and Falkland Islands websites are particularly helpful in this regard.

OUTPOSTS is, of course, dated; Hong Kong has long since reverted to the mandarins in Beijing. Luckily, I was able to visit the place in 1994 when it was still a jewel in the British crown. Oddly, the chapter on HK is surprisingly short considering the size and importance of the place at the time the book was written. Winchester didn't even mention one of the best E-rides in the world, the short Star Ferry trip from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.

One of the best reasons to read OUTPOSTS, if your interested in the subject, is the author's brief, chatty history of each colony. And then there's the occasional trivia. Did you know, for example, that during the Falkland Islands War a team of Argentine frogman arrived in Spain with plans to blow up Royal Navy ships anchored off Gibraltar? They were arrested by the Spanish police on a tip from British Intelligence. And, do you know the location of the only land border between Holland and France? It's not where you might think.

OUTPOSTS grandly took me to places I shall likely never visit, and I'm indebted to Winchester for that.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Super Read!, July 14, 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
If you are interested in British colonies as they are today, now known as Overseas Territories or Dependencies, there is no better book than Outposts. I bought this while in Bermuda for beachreading, and blasted through it in 2 days. Winchester gives you a feel for the lives of the islanders, and just how much influence the British government has left over the way they govern and police themselves. Some of the "forgotten lands" he visited and discusses include St. Helena (of Napoleon fame), Tristan de Cunha (between Africa and South America), Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Gibraltar, Bermuda and all of the British West Indies. Humorous, insightful - just a great way to see and feel what remains of the Empire without actually going there if you can't afford it.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read; but slightly outdated, February 17, 2005
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This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
Simon Winchester writes about his journeys to most of Britain's remaining overseas colonies, from Gibraltar to the Falklands to the military-dominated British Indian Ocean Territory.

The early chapters (his experiences being forced to journey from Spain to Gibraltar by way of Tangier, his attempted invasion of Diego Garcia in the B.I.O.T, his journey to Tristan da Cunha) are clearly the best. As for the Falklands chapter, it is interesting because he was on the islands at the time of the Argentine invasion, and I wish he had written some more about that. He also treks to Bermuda, St. Helena, Ascension, the Caymans, the Turks and Caicos, and the B.V.I., and makes them live for us, as well as Hong Kong.

Why Hong Kong? Wasn't that given back to China? Yes, in 1997, but these journeys by Mr. Winchester took place in the early 1980's. They are all rather interesting, but I would have hoped for an update in the new edition of this book (as well as a chapter on Pitcairn Island, which he had not been able to reach by the time Outposts was originally published, but subsequently reached). Instead, what we get is a new introduction, which does tell us of his exile from Tristan da Cunha (he isn't permitted to land there due to islanders' resentment over what he wrote) and brief updates on some of the other islands (such as the St. Helena islanders' successful quest for full British citizenship).

Recommended, but with the 20-plus years, getting a bit dated. Could use a good rewrite and updating.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History, geography and travelogue wrapped up in a single package!, September 27, 2009
By 
Paul Weiss (Dundas, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
In the early years of his career as a journalist, Simon Winchester hatched the rather ambitious idea of touring the globe to visit the far-flung remains of the rapidly dwindling and little known remnants of the British Empire. Although the sun still does not set on what little remains of these imperial holdings, Winchester recognized that this was a tenuous political situation unlikely to last for too many more years. He felt that there was a moving, fascinating and important story to be told of these vastly separated, profoundly isolated and mostly forgotten specks of land that reflected on Britain's somewhat tarnished past glories and conquests.

I'll admit this is a personal opinion (and you may well disagree) but I'd suggest that any fool with sufficient motivation and desire can complete the research and develop the information necessary to write a non-fiction book. But it is only a very special and exceptionally talented author who can write non-fiction in such a fashion as to turn that book into a compelling page-turner that reads like a novel and holds a reader's interest with the grip of the most exciting thrillers. Like Bill Bryson or Canada's Pierre Berton and Ken McGoogan, Simon Winchester is one of those authors with the ability to vault over that rather daunting bar.

Blending history, geography, biology, geology, sociology, linguistics and anthropology into a positively delicious cocktail, Winchester tells us the stories of such little known imperial tidbits as Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Pitcairn Island, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Ascension and BIOT (the British Indian Ocean Territory). While he is clearly a Brit to his very toes and positively wallows in his love of British tradition and custom from cricket to high tea, he certainly doesn't shrink from chastising his own government for imperial high-handedness and political shenanigans. For example, he clearly suggests that white supremacist racism may be the underlying reason that the residents of St Helena are not accorded the right to emigrate to England as full citizens? What were the secret political deals that were made with the US military when the residents of Diego Garcia in the BIOT were summarily evicted from their homes?

Having been written in the early 1980s, "Outposts" is clearly outdated but it is nevertheless immensely entertaining and informative. Simon Winchester ranks high on my list of authors that (at least for now) I'll buy without reference to anyone else's reviews. Yes, he is that good!

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outposts still out there..., October 16, 2005
By 
N. Fitzgerald (Boulmer, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
Having visited some of the far-flung places mentioned in Outposts, I was really floored by Winchester's style and prose: he really brings these remote islands alive, and tells a very readable, factual yet humorous tale of the inhabitants of Britain's remaining colonies, their lives and the daily issues they face.

Brilliantly written and extremely captivating, even those without an apparent interest in the subject would be moved by this book. I think it would at least further their curiosity in these remote patriots and their daily trials on such remote outcrops.

Harry Ritchie writes on a similar line in his book The Last Pink Bits, yet his research is noticeably less than Winchester's, by far. His tone at the start even appears one of mild annoyance at having to travel the world on the subject (surely his own idea?!) to the extent that I actually wondered why he bothered. New-found UK celebrity Ben Fogle also attempts a work entitled The Teatime Islands, and although a brave attempt at starting his writing career, I think he should stick to presenting daytime television.

Outposts is an extremely well-leafed book in my collection, which I keep revisiting. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those interested in travel, days of empire and island life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intriguing journey to what's left of the old Empire, January 19, 2012
This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
This is an intriguing book of a journey to the remnants of what remains of the British Empire, about 30 years ago. Beginning seemingly out of curiosity sake, the book is a travelogue of over a 100,000 miles to the edges of the inhabited earth. Unfortunately, some of the writing is now dated, and unfortunately for the residents of these far flung minor colonies, many of the concerns about them have not been addressed.

Winchester, a British writer and journalist, living in New England, undertook a journey 30 years ago to places even most Britons are unaware of: Tristan de Cunha, Ascension, Anguilla, B.I.O.T along with well known outposts like Gibraltar and the Falklands. Winchester does write with a sense of sadness about his journey's, particularly in some of the more distant locations that exist in an almost rejected state from the British government and people.

His strongest writing is early, particularly his journeys to the B.I.O.T, and his favorite island, St. Helena. The chapter on Hong Kong, now nearly 15 years since that outpost was devolved to the PRC, is the weakest. Winchester was present on the Falklands in 1982 when the Argentineans overran that far away land, home to many more sheep than people.

In the edition I have read, Winchester has only added a new introduction. It would be wonderful to have this work updated with how these distant lands have changed. How has the B.I.O.T changed since the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars, how has life changed for the Falklanders, a generation since the war, and how has life changed for many of the remaining colonists since they have a more full fledged citizenship.

As a travelogue and history of the edges of the world, to little places with perfectly formed English villages 8,000 miles from the Queen, whose portrait hangs above so many mantles, this is a fascinating story to places most of us will never travel to. Again, it can stand to be updated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Saddest Journeys, February 22, 2009
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This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
Outposts is perhaps the oddest of Winchester's many books; surely it is the most melancholy. The three years of journeys that were required to complete the book--which took Winchester to dozens of far-flung destinations spattered across the globe--was apparently both exhausting and disheartening. Or, perhaps we should dispense with the word "apparently": Winchester makes his exhaustion (with the travel, with the topic) and his disappointment more than clear. His typical humor is largely absent and, when it is not, it is decidedly brittle. Indeed, in the end Winchester finds himself in a territory that is truly unfamiliar to him: that of acting as a political and cultural critic of his own country and his own times. The reader, meanwhile, realizing that Winchester completed the manuscript some 24 years ago and that the dire situations he described can only have gotten worse, feels Winchester's melancholy all the more. (In 2004, Harper brought out a new edition of the book with an updated introduction; I have not read it.) This is perhaps among the more obscure of Winchester's books; it is, in any case, one of the few whose destination is not the past. I have always had the sense that Winchester was more in his element when he was delving into history, but the present in Outposts seems a particularly unhappy destination.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eccentric journeys to the far corners of the world, February 1, 2007
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This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
Simon Winchester is an interesting guy. Like Scott Turow, he wanted to be a writer when he was young, but was pushed into something else instead. In Turow's case he became a lawyer; Winchester became a geologist. After working for twenty years as a geologist, he took up writing and has worked at it for the last twenty or twenty-five years. He writes on various non-fiction topics, some of them rather unusual, including the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, the explosion of Krakatoa, and the San Francisco Earthquake. The current book is a recounting of several years during the late 70s and early 80s when the author worked as a journalist, and contrived to visit all of the inhabited remnants of the British Empire, save the smallest.

Winchester is a gifted writer, and he recreates his visits to each of these "outposts" with the British eccentricity and humor you'd expect from a good writer in this genre. He wouldn't be British if he didn't express some huffy disapproval at the way the British government depopulated the island of Diego Garcia and then leased it to the US Armed forces. At various points the places he describes come off as wonderfully British and yet colonial, that zany combination of efficiency and nonsensical tradition that pervades everything the British did when they were overseas.

I generally enjoyed this book, and would recommend it. It is a bit dated, and some of the predictions haven't come true: for instance, the author predicts that Pitcairn Island will be depopulated by the end of the century, and of course there are still people there. The author makes recommendations as to how the islands should be administered in the future as part of Great Britain, which of course are of little interest to someone who isn't British.

Given the shortcomings recounted above, this is a good book and rather fun. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars travel literature at its best, February 5, 2005
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This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
If you like history and travel literature, then this is the book for you.

Simon Winchester travels to some of the smallest and most obscure places on the earth, and gives fresh insight other more well known places such as Hong Kong.

And you will learn some really interesting stuff, like that there are some islands (well rocks in the pacific really), that are classified by the British government as Navel ships, and are named as such.

You will definately want to grab an atlas after reading this.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars places you've never known to exist!!!!!, December 21, 2004
By 
El Zahrul "el" (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (Paperback)
well.... as usual.... winchester's style of writing is exciting and enthralling... outposts focuses on the remaining British outposts... remenants of the British Empire... the author brings us on a journey to these remote places and vividly describes geographic, cultural and a bit of history of these outposts.... it was an enjoyable and memorable read.... if you're interested in history, geography and remote islands then i believe you will find this book interesting!!!
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Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire
Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire by Simon Winchester (Paperback - June 15, 2004)
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