Niall Ferguson Empire

ISBN 13: 9780465023288

Empire

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9780465023288: Empire

The British Empire was the largest in all history, its reach the nearest thing to world domination ever achieved. By the eve of the Second World War, over a fifth of the world's land surface and nearly a quarter of the world's population were under some form of British rule. Yet for today's generation, the British Empire has come to stand for nothing more than a lost Victorian past--one so remote that it has ceased even to be a target for satire. The time is ripe for a reappraisal.In this major new work of synthesis and revision, Niall Ferguson argues that the British Empire should be regarded not merely as vanished Victoriana but as the very cradle of modernity. Nearly all the key features of the twenty-first-century world can be traced back to the extraordinary expansion of Britain's economy, population, and culture from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth--economic globalization, the communications revolution, the racial make-up of North America, the notion of humanitarianism, the nature of democracy. Displaying the originality and rigor that have made him the brightest light among British historians, Ferguson shows that far from being a subject for nostalgia, the story of the Empire is pregnant with lessons for the world today--in particular for the United States as it stands on the brink of a new kind of imperial power based once again on economic and military supremacy.

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Review:

At its peak in the nineteenth century, the British Empire was the largest empire ever known, governing roughly a quarter of the world's population. In Empire, Niall Ferguson explains how "an archipelago of rainy islands... came to rule the world," and examines the costs and consequences, both good and bad, of British imperialism. Though the book's breadth is impressive, it is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the British Empire; rather, Ferguson seeks to glean lessons from this history for future, or present, empires--namely America. Pointing out that the U.S. is both a product of the British Empire as well as an heir to it, he asks whether America--an "empire in denial"--should "seek to shed or to shoulder the imperial load it has inherited." As he points out in this fascinating book, there is compelling evidence for both.

Observing that "the difficulty with the achievements of empire is that they are much more likely to be taken for granted than the sins of empire," Ferguson stresses that the British did do much good for humanity in their quest for domination: promotion of the free movement of goods, capital, and labor and a common rule of law and governance chief among them. "The question is not whether British imperialism was without blemish. It was not. The question is whether there could have been a less bloody path to modernity," he writes. The challenge for the U.S., he argues, is for it to use its undisputed power as a force for positive change in the world and not to fall into some of the same traps as the British before them.

Covering a wide range of topics, including the rise of consumerism (initially fueled by a desire for coffee, tea, tobacco, and sugar), the biggest mass migration in history (20 million emigrants between the early 1600s and the 1950s), the impact of missionaries, the triumph of capitalism, the spread of the English language, and globalization, this is a brilliant synthesis of various topics and an extremely entertaining read. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Niall Ferguson is Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschilds , and The Pity of War ). He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement , and lives in Oxford.

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ISBN 10: 0465023282 ISBN 13: 9780465023288
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