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Empire Audiobook

Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World

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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the unabridged audiobook edition of Empire by Niall Ferguson, read by Jonathan Keeble.

Once vast swathes of the globe were coloured imperial red, and Britannia ruled not just the waves but the prairies of America, the plains of Asia, the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Arabia. Just how did a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic achieve all this? And why did the empire on which the sun literally never set finally decline and fall?

Niall Ferguson's acclaimed Empire brilliantly unfolds the imperial story in all its splendours and its miseries, showing how a gang of buccaneers and gold diggers planted the seed of the biggest empire in all history - and set the world on the road to modernity.

©2017 Niall Ferguson (P)2017 Penguin AudioBooks

What the Critics Say

"The most brilliant British historian of his generation...Ferguson examines the roles of 'pirates, planters, missionaries, mandarins, bankers and bankrupts' in the creation of history's largest empire...he writes with splendid panache...and a seemingly effortless, debonair wit." (Andrew Roberts)

"Dazzling...wonderfully readable." ( New York Review of Books)

"A remarkably readable précis of the whole British imperial story - triumphs, deceits, decencies, kindnesses, cruelties and all." (Jan Morris)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.7 (77 )
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  •  
    Elaine Hospital, Ireland 01/01/2018
    Elaine Hospital, Ireland 01/01/2018 Member Since 2011
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    "excellent"

    Superb book. Entertaining, informative and well written. To crown it all it is also beautifully read.
    My only gripe is that it fails to recognise (as many books by British authors do) why Ireland chose neutrality in WW2. This was done to avert a return to civil war. A very real possibility at the time. Also, no recognition is given to the fact that while technically neutral Irish neutrality was heavily skewed in favour of the Allies.
    However, the book remains an excellent and absorbing piece of work.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don 05/02/2018
    Don 05/02/2018 Member Since 2018
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    "A useful overview, but with challenging biases "

    I enjoyed this book, though take issue with some of the content. The book is most interesting in its first half where it details the early stages of the British Empire, in particular the link between private and public institutions and the early growth of the Empire. The second half is more challanging, and is very much aimed at vindication of the Empire. The slightly contemptuous attitude to the United States and the convenience of ending the book before needed to fully engage with 1960s Africa/decolonisation are two negative elements towards the end. Ferguson does not shy away from the negative aspects of the Empire and highlights the deep injustices of the late 19th century scramble for Africa. However, in conclusion there is a strong sense that the end justifies the means and this was somehow a painful but necessary part of the creation of the modern world. I would certainly recommend the book both for its historical overview, as well as a clear example for those outside (or inside) Britain who want to understand the modern British attachment to the Empire and how traditionalist elements of society would like the Empire to be remembered.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derek 05/12/2017
    Derek 05/12/2017 Member Since 2017
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    "Enthralling book and has great relevance today"
    What did you like most about Empire?

    Providing a very balanced and dispassionate view of the British Empire throughout under pined with key economic data to back it up. This data is used to dispel many of the popular and politically correct myths about the the Empire that prevail and raises questions of the modern world order.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Empire?

    There are many but one that you keep being reminded of is how the empire that ruled over a quarter of the world was created and maintained for so long on such limited manpower and resources. Something hard to imagine in today's world


    Have you listened to any of Jonathan Keeble’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Film would not do this book justice given the breath and depth of the subject matter


    Any additional comments?

    If you have an interest in history this is a compelling listen. Hard to put down. Despite all the bad press about the British Empire it does make you feel proud of the many achievements of our ancestors while at the same time being ashamed of some of their behavior too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mrs M Redman 18/01/2018
    Mrs M Redman 18/01/2018 Member Since 2017
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    "Brilliant! "

    As a newbie to The Empire I found this book both enjoyable and engaging. Having tried other history narratives I found them difficult to hold the information but the way this is written and narrated kept me listen and learning the whole way through.Highly recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua 05/11/2017
    Joshua 05/11/2017 Member Since 2017
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    "The only book about Empire you will ever need"

    For many years I had lived in the private shame of my ignorance about the British Empire. This book was my first proper education on one of the most interesting pieces of British/World history and if I were to be told it would be my last education about it I would not be overly dissatisfied- due to having been grounded in Ferguson's focused yet comprehensive account (otherwise known as incredibly well written.) It won't however be my last dabble in this period of history because it has inspired in me the interest to focus more on the themes and aspects raised within.

    No boring history lecture, this is a story- an exciting story full from the beginnings to the end, the ups and downs, the good and the bad of the Empire. Ferguson tells this episode in a very interesting manner, frequently utilising: quotes, diary entries, poems, and other key texts from the times in order to entrench the listener in the atmosphere and context of the situation, a fantastic way of storytelling.

    Ferguson also confronts all of the big questions that Empire raised: was it a good thing? was it really beneficial to the average Brit? How did it differ in comparison to the other European empires? and of course, How did Britain Make the Modern World?


    No empire has spread as wide or has determined as much the shape of the planet we see today. Consequently everyone should read this book, but every Briton must read this book.



    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Armstrong 27/10/2017 Member Since 2016
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    "What a punt! Top Book."

    Took a risk buying a largely unreviewed audiobook and the payoff was delightful!

    I have listened to over a hundred audiobooks and this one might just be my favorite. Comprehensive balanced and insightful, the book really is all three. My only gripe is the length and focus on the 20th century which was undisciplined in sticking to the subject matter and therefore ending up telling much of which has been brilliantly told elsewhere.

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Dorothy
    GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA, United States
    04/11/17
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    "Such a great listen - What a History Lesson"

    I have listened to Niall Ferguson's book "Civilization" three times. I know I will do the same with this book. There is so much in this book which remains pertinent to the situations and times we are witnessing and living in today. This book pieced together and explained so many shadowy yet prevalent cultural happenings such as the Boar War and Gallipoli: things I knew the NAMES of but really had no understanding of why they had happened or what their importance meant to current events.

    While there is much that was arrogant and even brutal about the British Empire, Mr, Ferguson explains the origins and outcomes in an even handed way. The book is written in an easy to comprehend manner, it is not a boring academic tome that people who lack a Phd can understand or enjoy.

    I can't emphasize enough how amazing Jonathan Keeble is as a narrator. He is pitch perfect. I often look for his books because he seems to make anything he reads even better. I basically listened to this book in one sitting. It was very, very good.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Buretto
    Tokyo, Japan
    15/11/17
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    "Worst empire ever, except for all the rest."

    An engaging, if a bit of an uneven, account of the British Empire, as the author vacillates between a contemptuous view of the notion of empire and unabashed patriotism. The result is a bit disconcerting, abandoning a more measured style for a one that tends to reach for extremes of emotion. But oddly, it works.

    The book gives unique perspectives on the major events of the empire, particularly in America and India. The author does go a bit afield with suppositions of alternate realities regarding slavery and colonialism, which can't strictly be supported, but it's all good food for thought. Where it starts to strain is the repetition of how the British empire's actions could be viewed as similar to the SS in Nazi Germany, but not as bad.... the Boer treatment of Africa, but not as bad... the Japanese colonisation of Asia, but not as bad. While certainly understandable, it's a theme that perhaps could have been made with a slightly subtler hammer.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • KEITH
    Canyon Country, CA, United States
    06/01/18
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    "How Britain gained and lost the Empire"

    This is a very easy book to listen to and understand. It takes the reader from the beginning of the Empire (when the goal was to steal what they could from Spain), to the founding of colonies (and the ability of Britain to change its policies after losing America) to owning 1/4 of the land mass on the globe. The author points out that overall Britain wanted to do do the moral thing for its people.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Dennis Arve Wilkinson
    18/01/18
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    "It wasn’t all bad was it?"

    Empire building is not a popular idea today. It smacks of abuse and extortion
    Ferguson breaks down the good the bad and the ugly of the British Empire, but doesn’t conclude with the expected thumbs down. It’s more of a thumbs sideways perhaps even pointed a little upwards. Can he do that? Both his primary source stories and his reasons are worth listening to!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Anonymous
    24/02/18
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    "Great read"

    A wonderfully insightful look at the British empire. Understandable and enjoyable for the non-historian.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • J Dub
    04/02/18
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    Story
    "Good but not what I expected. "

    Well done but not what I expected. kinda dry. I was expecting more along his book, civilization.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Chiefkent
    Gulfport, MS USA
    07/01/18
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    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent Historical Compilation "

    Very little in this book is new information, what is new is the presentation of the various time periods, personalities and locales into one coherent volume. Not sure about the author's conclusions; he spends most of the book espousing Adam Smith and then justifies the UK's left turn towards Marx at the end of both the Empire and WWII. The narration is outstanding throughout. Highly recommend this book especially for American readers, who tend to be more egocentric in their views of world history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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