The Pax Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris's magnificent history of the British Empire from 1837 to 1965. Huge in scope and ambition, it is always personal and immediate, bringing the story vividly to life. Pax Britannica, the second volume, is a snapshot of the Empire at the Diamond Jubilee of 1897. It looks at what made up the Empire -from adventurers and politicians to communications and infrastructure, as well as anomalies and eccentricities. This humane overview also examines the muddle of jumbled ideologies behind it, and how it affected its 370 million people.
©1968 Jan Morris (P)2011 Naxos AudioBooks
This review is for all three large volumes of Mr Morris's brilliant and exhaustive work tracing the rise and fall of the British Empire in exquisite detail. From the grand sweep of history to the obscure backwoods incidents and the always fascinating explanations of all sorts of things and "facts" that we take for granted today which it turns out did not happen in the way traditional history would have us believe.
Another amazing part of the book is as it was written in the 1960s there isno PC rubbish or mincing of words to avoid notional offense given to any race or religion, all are treated equally and their stories told in all the gory details good or bad - this is certainly not a glorious whitewash of the Empire's history it is honest and frank in every way possibe.
The most unusual thing for me are the Irish sections which in mostly tends to be glossed over in the UK and still is today, this however was a relevation to me on the course and history of the "Irish Troubles".
The whole thing is a must for anybody interested in World History, I doubt I could have sat and read the books but on Audio they are brilliant.
"The British Empire at it's Peak"
In this, the second volume of Jan Morris's history of the British Empire, we are given a masterful overview of the British Empire on one specific day. That day is June 22, 1897 - the date of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (the 60th anniversary of her reign). Mr. Morris chooses this date as the ascendant point of the British Empire.
This book is a tour-De-force of history as it surveys almost every conceivable angle of the Empire as it stood on this one day. This covers not just the physical condition of the people in England, imperialists at work in the Empire, and the people who were being ruled - but their attitudes, literature, music, arts, military capabilities, and more.
There are so many things to recommend about this trilogy, but one of the most impressive is how many places Mr. Morris physically visited while putting it together. This gives its descriptions, which are lavish and highly evocative, a "been there" authority. Of course, we only know when an empire is at its peak when its decline is in view, but given that this book was originally written in the late 1960's Mr. Morris's choice of this date seems very prescient.
And it must be noted that the narrator - Roy McMillan - is simply brilliant in his performance.
A must add to your library.
Mesmerizing history of the British Empire
The context it set for me vastly improved my understanding
Lovely voice, nicely cadenced
"Get lost in the past."
Absorbing, surprising and fascinating
The only other book I can think of that matches the breadth and depth of this one is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
I can't choose one. The range is so wide- across the Victorian British Empire, across the World. I loved hearing details about the Carribbean Sugar Colonies and the Maori in New Zealand.
No. But you can't really do anything else while listening the first time. You might miss something!
If you enjoy history, historical fiction, historical romances, or Jane Austen, this book will explain so much about how things work. Even Downton Abbey- understanding the time helps us understand motivations.
"Nothing is ever as simple as it seems"
An interesting review of how Britain obtained and then shed an empire and just how it all happened without a concerted plan or a real overall strategy. Not quite an "Accidental Empire" but neither a thought through plan to dominate the people of the countries they added to the collection. Worth every minute and dollar to learn interesting facts and to remember that it often takes a long time for the sense (or lack thereof) of a decision to become clear.
Production values in the audio is of the normal Audbile high standard.
"Comprehensive, but dull at times"
This is the middle book in the Pax Britannica trilogy and deals with the events around the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Victoria. Morris goes into great detail about pretty much every aspect of the Empire, which was by then at it's apogee. I preferred Vol 1, which was a bit faster-paced, and am into Vol 3 at the moment, though we're still mired in the fin de siecle.
Jan Morris is old-school - there's not the overwrought apologist tone that colours much modern history on the British empire and it's myriad crimes and misdemeanors. She trusts that we, the readers, know that Imperialism isn't justifiable, but she refuses to judge the Imperialists by our moral standards, and in my view she sets the right tone by this approach.
I'd recommend the trilogy, which is well-written, well read (in both senses) and entertainingly informative.
"The Extreme Highs and Lows of an Age"
As the second book in the Pax Britannica series, this one covers the Victorian Era at its peak of Empire just as the title suggests. As with the first, it's less about the direct through-line of history and more about the people, attitudes, and social expectations of the age. Books like this make it very difficult to condemn the "wrongness" of social disasters without also appreciating the "rightness" in the ideals of the most noble of the age. These were a proud people who felt they were answering the call to destiny, and as such that proverbial road to hell was paved very well indeed. Some of the age were indeed so noble that it inspires one to wonder what could have been had the greed and racism that so defined that era had been socially condemned in the minds of the masses as much as it had been in Queen Victoria herself. Perchance to dream, and such is the very romanticism that captures the imagination of that time.
The anecdotes paint very real portraits of the colorful characters involved, and it is through these that the stereotypes and social trends of the age are examined, supported, refuted, and otherwise challenged both in mind and at heart. We see the wide spectrum of thought and deed, poking holes in the oversimplifications of history, and for many like myself with a mind towards the curious, these stories will likely open doors to new rabbit holes worthy of exploration.
As before, Roy McMillan's narration serves very well. He manages to capture the pomposity and the insecurity of the peoples discussed, connecting the reader with an age that, while not too distant from our own and similar in many regards, seems so far and otherwise alien to us as to be relegated to the realms of fantasy. There is a humanity in this series that author and narrator combined bring forth, making it a win as far as I'm concerned.
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