British cultivation of the hairy upper lip was inspired, he suggests, by Indian ideals of virility, and would decline in proportion with the empire's reach: Harold Macmillan was "the last British prime minister to sport a moustache". The book also doubles as an extended meditation on Britain's fraught love affair with ancient Rome. Brendon peppers his pages with contemporary allusions to the Roman empire, and they were legion.
British rulers were steeped in the classics, from Richard Wellesley, who filled Calcutta's Government House with "the busts of a dozen Caesars", to George Nathaniel Curzon years later, who "lisped in Gibbon". Such training meant that even as they gilded and gloried in their empire, Britons always worried about intrinsic tendencies towards decline. Necessarily, blood flows freely through this book. At Cawnpore in , where nearly British women and children had been notoriously slaughtered by the Indian mutineers, the British forced suspected perpetrators to "lick blood from the slaughter-house floor before they were hanged".
At Isandhlwana in , British soldiers were shredded by Zulu iklwas blades, "so named in imitation of the sucking sound they made when pulled from human flesh". But it was mass slaughter, 20th century-style, that would truly bring the empire down. During the Boer war , white civilians would be rounded up into ghastly concentration camps - creating a precedent explicitly cited by the Nazis.
The first world war carried Canadians and Indians to "the bone-chilling, gut-wrenching, soul-destroying shambles of the western front", and Australians and New Zealanders to the hell of Gallipoli, where relentless firing turned "their trenches into cemeteries". With the end of the first world war, even as Britain acquired new protectorates, the imperial patchwork was undeniably coming apart at the seams. It was as if, in Beatrice Webb's words, the empire began to suffer from "a sort of senile hypertrophy", reaching new heights of brutality with the Amritsar massacre of and new peaks of decadence in expat enclaves from Kenya to Shanghai.
The second world war accelerated the crash. On hearing the Japanese bombing of the causeway that linked Singapore to the mainland, the headmaster of Raffles School asked what all the noise was. He was not far wrong. As Brendon shows, the chaos of war made it virtually impossible for Britain to retain India and Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, all of which gained independence by In Malaya Britain did try to hold on, only to face insurgent attacks.
It responded by declaring a state of emergency and pursuing a bitter campaign against Chinese "communist terrorists". This would gain cruel resonance in Kenya, where the imposition of a state of emergency in provoked intensified insurgency and the British rounding-up of tens of thousands of Mau Mau suspects into horrific detention camps.
In central Africa, too, decolonisation was born in violence: Set against such blood-stained operations, Britain's most recent imperial war - in the Falklands - appears relatively tame. Though sadly the West Indies, once Britain's most valuable colonial territories, rate little more space in this book than those desolate isles.
Brendon conducts his comprehensive tour of empire's fall with characteristic flair, but what depressing sights it offers. All told, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire presents a glittering panoply of decadence, folly, farce and devastation. Brendon's characters alone could fill a pantomime stage many times over. The empire seemed to abound in British oddballs, from the notorious Richard Burton, who "liked to boast that he had indulged in every vice and indulged in every crime", to the maverick General Orde Wingate, who "would Postcolonial heroes fare little better.
Jomo Kenyatta "sported plus-fours, drank literally inflammatory Nubian gin and so indulged his sexual appetites that he was suspended from church membership", while Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia was "notorious for dancing, horse-racing, driving fast cars and getting into tight corners with loose women". Kwame Nkrumah "studied the occult, consulted oracles" and "compared himself to Christ". Mahatma Gandhi becomes "a compound of oriental mystic and occidental crank, humble sadhu and astute advocate".
The most striking hallmark of the British Empire was, for me, the inherent hypocrisy at its very heart.
Piers Brendon's The Decline and Fall of the British Empire is a tale of decadence, folly, farce and devastation, says Maya Jasanoff. Buy The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire First Paperback Edition by Dr Piers Brendon (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Book Store. Everyday low .
The enduring claim was that Britain had a 'duty of care' to protect and nurture these colonies until they could mature to independence - an incredibly patronising attitude to begin with. But in actuality the Empire was far more about exploiting these colonies for our own benefits than any interest or duty to its native inhabitants.
The shadow of Rome hangs over this book like a cloud. All of the imperialists were incredibly aware of the fate of Rome, and the idea that the mother-nation would inevitably fall along with the Empire helps to explain a lot of the attitudes found in this book. What of Rome now, the imperialists would say. What of Macedonia and Egypt and Greece? They had a mortal fear of Britannia's decline and the notion of Empire was incredibly bound up in that.
That Britannia still stands, more or less, whilst our Empire has long gone, bar a few rocky outposts that still prove a thorn in the side say, the Falklands , is more a testament to the modern era than anything politicians, capitalists and imperialists did. To be honest, it's a miracle any nation wants to be a part of the Commonwealth.
With that kind of colonial legacy I'm amazed they want anything to do with 'Great' Britain. May 05, Andrea rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a wide-ranging and ambitious book about a topic that I personally find fascinating. Overall, it is terrific, so let me point out the one or two small flaws that keep me from a five star rating.
Because the books range is so wide, naturally there are limits to what the author could cover thoroughly. So there are few places where I caught him taking some research "short cuts," i. If this were a history This is a wide-ranging and ambitious book about a topic that I personally find fascinating. If this were a history textbook, this would be inexcusable, but since the fictional sources were clearly cited for the careful reader to identify and this is, after all, a readable popular account rather than an academic text, I think these are minor problems in an otherwise remarkably well-written and readable book.
Aug 08, Christina rated it really liked it Shelves: A sweeping and highly detailed look at the decline of the British Empire and its eventual demise. Although this comparison serves as a great central theme for the book, it also simplifies the differences between the two great world empires. Most markedly, Brendan does not explore the place of colonialist agency in the British colonies. Also does not delve into the important postcolonial theories of A sweeping and highly detailed look at the decline of the British Empire and its eventual demise.
Also does not delve into the important postcolonial theories of neocolonialism, subalternity, or hybridity even if Brendan's monograph refuted these ideas, addressing them is almost completely necessary in the 21st Century study of empire and colonialism. Still, an incredible exploration of the end of empire. Dec 09, Gordon Howard rated it liked it. Modeled after Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the book cuts a broad swath across modern history - perhaps too broad.
The panoply of historical figures and events grows occasionally tedious, and the chapters have a definite pattern. One annoying habit the author has is the juxtaposition of two paragraphs, the second saying the exact opposite about a figure or event than the first. Nevertheless, this is a compellling story, as we watch the mighty British empire slowly stumble its wa Modeled after Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the book cuts a broad swath across modern history - perhaps too broad.
Nevertheless, this is a compellling story, as we watch the mighty British empire slowly stumble its way to emptiness. The author is not at all fond of the whole affair, but is also not enamored of the "freedom fighters" and independence figures who won out - he even is a cynic about Gandhi! A good, but not great, book. Nov 20, Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing Shelves: I enjoyed this book immensely. It pulls together the saga of the end of the British Empire from the loss of the American colonies through to the independence of India and the African colonies and to the gradual slow reduction of the last few bits in the Caribbean, leaving the odd few islands around.
Writing this review February as the debate over the British exit from the EU plods along, it is both interesting and disturbing that large elements of the present governing party Conservative I enjoyed this book immensely. Writing this review February as the debate over the British exit from the EU plods along, it is both interesting and disturbing that large elements of the present governing party Conservatives retain a nostalgia for the lost days of empire and a naive view that this can somehow be recovered.
This book should be a corrective to that. Jul 30, Jonah rated it it was amazing. One of the best history books ever. May 01, Nandini Goel rated it it was amazing. Although it is said "The Sun never sets on British Empire" and I wish Sun of Happiness and compassion never sets on any community or nation but this book is more of a guide to people in power and in public life. It lays exemplary thoughts on the table.
The greed for Territorial aggrandizement, well although it speaks about British but may I say it was prevalent among all colonist states, which is atavistic has defined the history of British Empire. The factors which proved apocalyptic to Britain's large empire and tarnished its gilt are highlighted in this book. The major reason that I understood after reading the book was the policies towards the people of its colonies and unable to denounce the idea of aggrandizement.
Imperialist looked at the land under possession only for their consumption of the natural resource and other commercial needs but what they actually failed to understand was the needs of the local inhabitants, while it is reported that they not only treated the original inhabitants of the colonial land as their god-gifted slaves and also looked down on them. The partial treatment to the people of the captured colonies led to the rise of Jingoism in the Natives and ultimately led to rebellion which finally led to decline and fall of the Empire, as it got impossible to govern the colonies and it was an expensive affair.
The author has tried to analyze between the style of operation of the British Empire to the Roman Empire, where he repeatedly iterates the fact that even after a century, the Romans had control over their lost empire while British lost control of their empire as soon as they left. Maybe internally they still have full control over their ex-colonies through indirect interference in the government but for sure they left plenty of resentment in the minds of the people of their colonies. On personal note I believe what Mahatma Gandhi said while British were departed India" We should let the British depart like good friends as we had very long togetherness on this piece of land".
I understand it is difficult for everyone to have similar views. So, the decline and fall of British Empire began with the loss of the thirteen American Colonies which were a major business hub for them where the ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity flourished. They suddenly realized that Colonization is after all resulting in their losses. India was a profitable market. The main problem with the British colonies was the feeling of Alienation that developed with time and inhumane treatment rendered over the people. The men and women were treated slaves in their own country while the British also known as rogues by the common people were enjoying orgies.
The Dionysian character of the ruling class agitated the ruled and from there spurred the desire to be free in their own land and the people started protesting. The protests failed at first but at the end, the British had to finally leave. The Second Boer War in South Africa further highlighted the Imperial desire of insular aggrandizement where just to annex a further large piece of territory, the British took innocent lives. Further The defeat at the Gallipoli Campaign came as a big surprise to the ruling Empire where they were unable to annex the territory of the Ottoman Empire the present day Turkey.
The Irish formed a major part of the British Army yet they felt alienated by the British treatment towards them. The economic exploitation was also a major factor and with the Irish Famine which led to starvation of a large population in Ireland,The Irish lost hope in British leadership and the agitation further flared among Irish. Religious differences also played an important part in further increasing the distrust between British and Irish community. Finally with the Irish war of Independence, Ireland was divided with Southern Ireland or the Republic of Island which demanded free state and away from the dominion of British and Northern Island, where the people chose to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
Israel was another territory of British which was gifted by the British to the uninhabited Jewish people, who were stranded away from Europe due to unrest,These Jewish people were the victims of the Holocaust and the Barbarism of Nazis in World War 2.
Israel became another center of agitation between the Muslims and Jews to the collision of Religious interest. British also faced major aggression in India where at first there was a mutiny of sepoys resulting from the introduction of new Enfield cartridges where it was rumored that the cartridges consisted of pig meat which was both against the religious sentiments of Hindus and Muslims. Over a large period of time the unjust policies of British instilled a feeling of suppression in Indian and the need for freedom was voiced.
Indian Leaders like Nehru and Gandhi and other prominent Indian leaders worked to get Indian independence and bring forth the idea of self governance, Rising unrest among Indians also aggravated which was not only getting difficult to control but was also bringing bad reputation to the British. The losses suffered by the British while keeping India as a colony were not being compensated by the profits they made through Indian resources or market. Again the philosophy proposed by Adam Smith got its importance among intellects in Britain "Colonization is not such a profitable venture after all".
Before leaving India there were few strategies that led to doubt the British Intentions,One such policy was to divide India on the basis of religious majority.
Although it was proposed as the demands of Muslims through its leader Mr Jinnah a Muslim league leader ,to create a new Muslim state separate from India. This was not very well taken by the commoners and non political Indian participants, Protests and Riots broke out all over the country.
Majority of Muslims wanted a new state and so a new Muslim state was formed in the shape of Dominion of Pakistan. India and Pakistan got independence. Although repercussion of this decision was even felt after almost 30 years of Pakistan Independence Later, when a new state called Bangladesh was again separated from Pakistan due to mismatch of ideologies, which illustrated the diversity in religions and ideologies in India.
And so they had to leave the pearl on the Indian Brow and with that the British imperial empire was at a verge of total breakdown. Ceylon was more impotatnt as it gave Britain monopoly in Indian Ocean. Now, the two main remaining territories under the British control were Falkland Islands and Hong Kong. Hong Kong became part of China in Piers Brendon just outdoes the research and provides a beautiful outlook to one of the most inspiring empires of the world. My gratitude to the Author of this book for providing such provoking insight of the important part of World's History Nandini Goel.
From the loss of Thirteen Colonies in America to the loss of Hong Kong, the author asserts that the British Empire planted the seed for its eventual demise, even while expanding throughout the world. There were similarities between British Empire and Roman Empire, expanding, trying to impose its values, and perenially anxious about threat to its power. An interesting, if rather thick, book to read. Jan 02, Peter Bingham-Pankratz rated it it was amazing. Thought this was quite a masterful work.
I'm not all that knowledgeable about the British Empire, but after reading this book I feel like I lived through it! All of Brendon's anecdotes and historical bios are both entertaining and fascinating. Don't be put off by the size--just read it on an eReader and it'll go by quickly.
Mar 08, Robert Hutley rated it it was amazing. Superbly written balanced account of Britain's imperial history. One of the best history books I have read. Nov 16, TS Allen rated it it was amazing. History at its finest. Dec 28, Jon rated it really liked it. At just under small-font pages, Brendon does a thorough job of detailing many of the major episodes of the Empire's dissolution. These events are examined through the eyes of the Colonial and Foreign Offices, Viceroys, and civil service officers spread across a quarter of the globe and ruling over one-fifth of its population.
There is no overarching theory about the causes and nature of the decline and fall of the Empire, although the narrative is unmistakably told through the lens of Edward At just under small-font pages, Brendon does a thorough job of detailing many of the major episodes of the Empire's dissolution. There is no overarching theory about the causes and nature of the decline and fall of the Empire, although the narrative is unmistakably told through the lens of Edward Gibbon.
Instead of a coherent underlying logic, Brendon provides in-depth portrayals of the difficulties--domestic, international, cultural, ethnic, social, economic, and military--inherent in managing such a far-flung and diverse amalgamation of dominions, colonies, mandates, dependencies, military occupations, protectorates, and spheres of influence.
Moreover, he provides the reader with a very real sense of the role of the two world wars of forcing Britiain to rely more heavily on its Empire and thus hastening its demise by heightening tensions between metropole and hinterlands. Not surprisingly, India, Egypt, and the Antipodes make up the bulk of these accounts, with the postwar African and Middle Eastern sagas taking up much of the final third of the book.
The major drawback to Brendon's work is two-fold. First, there is relatively little attention given to the role of competing empires in the acquisition, overstretch, and forfeit of Britain's own Empire. For example, little mention is made of the "Great Game" between Russia and Britain, even though this guided London's ambitions across the Middle East and Asia for much of the period Second, and related to the first point, Brendon overlooks the importance of inter-agency feuds in undermining the empire.
For instance, the notorious rivalry between the India and Egypt offices from did much to weaken Britain's strategic and moral position from Suez to Singapore, while the continental-peripheral strategy debate in Whitehall during World War I resulted in Britain exhausting its own capabilities by spreading its forces and responsibilities across much of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Brendon provides little in the way of explicit prescription or proscription for the behavior of future superpowers, perhaps because Britain's own demise little mirrored that of its Roman predecessor. However, there is a moral undercurrent to the book, hinting at the importance of soft-power persuasion as the ideal tool for maintaining Pax Americana, as opposed to the hard-power coercion so often favored under Pax Romana and Britannica. Mar 20, Moses Operandi rated it really liked it.
Over his own broad canvas, Brendon shows how and why the British Empire, regarded by many of its most diehard admirers as a "liberal empire", was truly a substantial contradiction in terms, often promoting both harsh, brutal imperial rule and benevolent "guardianship" to the teeming tens of millions that it ruled in Africa, Asia, North America, and even in the British Isles referring of course to Ireland. In the US, " Victoria " was chosen as the lead single, backed with the album track "Brainwashed", and was released the same week as the LP. He was named after Arthur's brother, who was killed in the battle of the Somme. Open Preview See a Problem? Through the decades and centuries of British imperial rule Brendon again and again shows numerous officials, politicians, soldiers, businessmen and missionaries expanding the borders of the Empire - some with noble intentions, some without - all Piers Brendon succeeds in 'The Decline and Fall of the British Empire' in conveying the various complexities and contradictions of the British Empire and those who ran it, arguing that it was these counter-acting forces that eventually led to its demise. Today the album receives generally positive reviews. And there is a constant stream of consequences - the development of the slave trade, the treatment of prisoners deported to Australia and New Zealand, the great famine in Ireland, a sequences of famines in India, culminating in one in Bengal in the early s which resulted in the deaths of two to three million people.
This is the first serious history book I've ever read, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm not particularly impressed. The problems with Brendon's work, pages in, seem to outweigh the strengths. Like his idol Gibbon, Brendon indulges in stultifying anti-Christian rhetoric. He denies it, but I think he does have some sort of "noble savage" complex that drives him to bitter sarcasm about even the most saintly of Victorians, David Livingstone. He recognizes that the fall o This is the first serious history book I've ever read, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm not particularly impressed.
He recognizes that the fall of the Empire was inevitable because many of its key figures believed wholeheartedly in eventual self-rule for the colonies, but seems a bit too thrifty in giving praise where praise is due. He fails to see that Britain was the first empire to even consider self-rule, or even give much thought to the well-being of its colonies beyond what was required to keep them from revolting. The book immediately jumps into a horrifying portrayal of the Middle Passage. Not saying this is a bad thing, but I don't think it needed such a graphic and lengthy treatment.
The book does seem to be a parade of horrors, moving smoothly from one bloody barbaric act to its bloody barbaric reprisal throughout the Empire. Brendon seems more concerned that we censor the Empire and the Victorians than that we understand WHY the Empire fell. As I mentioned, Brendon does hit on the rather profound fact that the Empire was self-dissolving because of the planted seeds of democracy. Of course this was full-on self-interest see Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, the section on free trade , but it is crucial to understanding the Empire, to understanding what made the mid-Victorian giants like Livingstone, Baden-Powell and Sir James Stephen tick.
I can't fault Brendon's writing or research. His quotes are uniformly well-chosen, generally highlighting delicious Victorian wordplay and foresight. The cover photo is awesome. I finished it, despite its flaws. While it isn't nearly as vast in scope as Gibbon's work, it does come across as a brilliant bit of historical writing in its own right, tracing the rise and fall of a British Empire that claimed mastery of the world's oceans in the aftermath of the American Revolu Piers Brendon's "The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: While it isn't nearly as vast in scope as Gibbon's work, it does come across as a brilliant bit of historical writing in its own right, tracing the rise and fall of a British Empire that claimed mastery of the world's oceans in the aftermath of the American Revolution and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Over his own broad canvas, Brendon shows how and why the British Empire, regarded by many of its most diehard admirers as a "liberal empire", was truly a substantial contradiction in terms, often promoting both harsh, brutal imperial rule and benevolent "guardianship" to the teeming tens of millions that it ruled in Africa, Asia, North America, and even in the British Isles referring of course to Ireland. But Brendon doesn't dwell overwhelmingly over the worst aspects of British imperial rule; he often refers to its eventual successes, describing how in the "non-white, non-European" portions of its vast global empire, British subjects, whether Africans, Indians, or Malaysians, eventually learned substantial aspects of democratic rule and a commitment to just rule under well-established law; a political legacy which Great Britain has bequeathed successfully to many of its former colonies throughout the globe.
With its ample cast of colorful characters - both European and native non-European - Brendon's book is one of the most intriguing, most engaging, narrative histories I have stumbled upon, and one that is well deserving of a wide readership. Reposted from my Amazon review I would usually do anything to avoid reading a book authored by someone called 'Piers' but this is a terrific account of the British Empire from the loss of the American colonies to the handing back of Hong Kong. Chapters on some of the thorniest issues including Suez and Rhodesia are particularly good while the author is especially excellent on India.
Possibly because of the availability of sources, more time is devoted to the twentieth century - accounts of early trading missions are outside th I would usually do anything to avoid reading a book authored by someone called 'Piers' but this is a terrific account of the British Empire from the loss of the American colonies to the handing back of Hong Kong. Possibly because of the availability of sources, more time is devoted to the twentieth century - accounts of early trading missions are outside the purview of the book - while the author shatters the illusion that the British Empire was overwhelmingly a good thing.
Events at Amritsar, Croke Park and elsewhere emphasize this while the hasty post-war dropping of the imperial hot potato led to the ongoing and likely never to be resolved problems in Palestine and the horror of riots and murder that followed partition in India. Britain did stand up to racists in the Boer War and fascists over the Falklands although that particular conflict is rightly depicted as hypocritical while infrastructure was built that has helped power present day economies - but the motive was almost always self-interest.
Brendon sees as the end point but a sequel will need to be written that covers Gibraltar the existence of which as a British territory remains inexplicable ,the Chagos Archipelago and, above all, Ulster. In a final paragraph pregnant with meaning, Brendon asserts that the 'spirit of imperialism is not dead: Piers Brendon succeeds in 'The Decline and Fall of the British Empire' in conveying the various complexities and contradictions of the British Empire and those who ran it, arguing that it was these counter-acting forces that eventually led to its demise.
Through the decades and centuries of British imperial rule Brendon again and again shows numerous officials, politicians, soldiers, businessmen and missionaries expanding the borders of the Empire - some with noble intentions, some without - all Piers Brendon succeeds in 'The Decline and Fall of the British Empire' in conveying the various complexities and contradictions of the British Empire and those who ran it, arguing that it was these counter-acting forces that eventually led to its demise.
Through the decades and centuries of British imperial rule Brendon again and again shows numerous officials, politicians, soldiers, businessmen and missionaries expanding the borders of the Empire - some with noble intentions, some without - all confronting the same contradiction of enjoying the privileges of a liberal, democratic society at home whilst constructing a paternalist and at times autocratic imperial structure across the globe.
There are a few criticisms, however, of Brendon's book. Firstly, his penchant for using various anecdotes of imperial life - and the vast canvas of actors across the two centuries that he covers from to - can become a little tiring. Sometimes you begin to wonder whether they're of any use in understanging the topic or if Brendon just found them amusing.
Secondly, some of the later periods of British imperial rule - such as Palestine, Iraq, Cyprus, Aden etc. Also, any mention of the Dominions during and after the First World War is almost invisible. Despite these however, it is nonetheless a fascinating study, and one that should be highly recommended to anyone wishing to expand on their knowledge of this interesting period of British history.
Apr 07, Mark rated it really liked it. Blow by blow account of the trials and tribulations of the British Empire in all its raging, racist glory, from tip-top to low-as-it-gets.