Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World

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9780713996159: Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World

This hugely praised and bestselling book is Ferguson's most revolutionary and popular work. EMPIRE is a major reinterpretation of the British Empire as one of the world's greatest modernising forces.Highly praised:'Marvellous' - Sunday Times'Elegant and thoughtful' - Sunday Telegraph'Excellent' - FT Weeekend

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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 one of Britain's most renowned historians. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He has written fourteen books, including The House of Rothschild, Empire, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, The Great Degeneration and Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist. His many prizes include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013).

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Ferguson, Niall
Published by Allen Lane (2003)
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