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The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire (Cambridge Illustrated Histories) New Ed Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0521002547
ISBN-10: 0521002540
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Another handsome volume from a distinguished series, the Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire begins its narrative after the American colonies achieved their independence and continues to the present. Spending anywhere from a few minutes to many hours with this book reminds us of how a 19th-century global superpower shaped so much of the modern world. Among its many colorful side bars are histories of Australia's convict origins, the city-state of Hong Kong, and the Suez Canal. An appropriate picture enriches the text on nearly every page. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Although the sun has set on the British Empire, it keeps rising over its globe-spanning legacy in the former colonies' language, political boundaries, economics, and ethnic composition. Marshall has devoted his academic career to that legacy, experience that lends comfortable reliability to this history. It is divided in half: he writes a concise narrative spanning the empire's recovery from losing its American colonies, its circa 1890s apogee, through its post^-World War II dismantlement. He then turns over the reins to specialists in themes of the empire, ranging from how it was ruled, whether it degraded or enriched the places it ruled, and even the art and architecture it inspired. The latter occasions a profuse burst of the paintings and photographs with which this handsome tome is endowed throughout. Although controversial, British imperialism is less profitably written of as a good or bad thing, as Marshall often remarks, than as a muddled, occasionally positive phase of history with effects as idiosyncratic as the myriad places over which the Union Jack flew. That variety infuses this attractively styled, balanced work. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Illustrated Histories
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (September 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521002540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521002547
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #944,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The British Empire is a subject of particular personal interest, since I was born under the Union Jack in pre-1997 Hong Kong, and I'm still living in a former British Commonwealth country - a citizen of Canada. This book is full of photos, many in color. But it is low on maps - a dreadful error considering the subject matter.
The Opium Wars are only briefly mentioned. Surprising because of the importance of Hong Kong in the British Empire.
China, the chief victim of the Opium Wars, may have been the chief beneficiary of the British Empire. Opening the country by force and humiliation has resulted in war and revolution, which are now unleashing the energies of the people. China fell behind Europe since about 1500. Now, thanks to the British Empire, China is beginning to close the gap.
Had China not been opened up, its people would have fallen behind even further - and living at African levels of development. So while in the short-term the British Empire devastated China, in the long run it helped China change and modernize (rather like what the Americans did to Japan since Commodore Perry).
However, nothing would be more foolish than to think that the Chinese should feel gratitude to the British for setting this gigantic process in motion. It would be like asking the Jews to be thankful to Hitler for the Holocaust - even though similarly Hitler's crimes were a direct reason why the Jews have a homeland for the first time in two thousand years. Truly, the disgusting crimes committed by the British against the Chinese cannot be easily surpassed by anything else in human history - with the possible exception of the Holocaust itself. Maybe this is one reason why this is not discussed in this book - it's too sensitive.
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