Pax Britannica: Climax of an Empire Paperback – January 1, 1989
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Paperback : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780156714662
- ISBN-13 : 978-0156714662
- Dimensions : 7.98 x 5.34 x 1.36 inches
- Publisher : Harcourt (January 1, 1989)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0156714663
- Best Sellers Rank: #504,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Am writing this review re James Morris as that's who she was when Pax Britannica was written. It is a wonderful resource for my family history researches set as they are in British India, Australia and Victorian Britain. excellent.
As I said, Morris is eccentric. This means that though the books are sort of chronological, they aren't exactly sorted the way you would expect, and this isn't really a history of the empire or the era. Instead, it's an anecdotal collection of tales, incidents, and sketches, marvelously told. Sort of like the difference between going through a cafeteria once and a sumptuous buffet where you go back and forth, taking time with what you enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed the books, though I would hesitate to recommend them to someone who wasn't clear on either geography, or at least some basic history of the British Empire. Since this isn't either of those, you need them to understand what she's talking about occasionally.
Top reviews from other countries
All over the map of the world in 1897 red marked the extent of British influence: "a begrudging kind of paradise," Morris calls it. A paradoxical paradise, too, for there was little uniformity to bind the various patches of land - from tiny atolls to semi-continents - which variably ruled themselves while always being subject to Victoria's government. "Legally," the author writes, "there was no such thing as a British Empire. It had no constitutional meaning. Physically, too, it was a kind of fiction, or bluff, in that it implied a far stronger power at the centre than really existed."
But it worked. Strengths and weaknesses everywhere, but still it worked. There can be no greater praise for this book than to say that it encompasses the whole, black, white and grey, while constantly illuminating it with the detail. I quickly abandoned making notes; they were already too numerous to marshall sensibly. Page after page offers a telling vignette, a memorable phrase. At random, then, this miniature of life in the Raj: "The soldiers flirted in the public gardens. The officers played polo, sailed their yachts in the harbour, and sometimes went to cockfights, abetted by local Irishmen with fingers along the sides of their noses." In a few dozen words, the reader is taken there, seeing it as it was.
This is serious history, seriously told, always enlivened, never cheapened, by Morris's love of a quirky anecdote. There are many but one, concerning William Packenham from a passage on memorable Royal Navy commanders, must suffice: "... when an elderly lady at a civic luncheon asked him if he was married, he replied courteously, 'No, madam, no. I keep a loose woman in Edinburgh.'"
Pax Britannica is a worthy successor to the first in Jan Morris's brilliant trilogy, and an irresistible appetiser for the third.