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Book Title: A History of Britain: The Fate of Empire 1776-2000|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 5.26 MB
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The author of the book: Timothy West
Edition: BBC Audiobooks
Date of issue: August 18th 2003
ISBN 13: 9780563494744
Loaded: 2390 times
Reader ratings: 4.9
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I thought this third volume of Simon Schama’s History of Britain would be the one I’d enjoy the most, after all I’d lived through a small part of it and surely I knew more about the more recent history of this sceptred isle than the years covered in the earlier volumes. But no, in truth I found this volume to be rather dull in comparison. Maybe it’s the way the author decided to tell the tale: i.e.by by tracking the timeline through his focus on a small number of influential characters? Or perhaps it was the very fact that I already knew a good part of the story? Or could it be that the early volumes had just covered more colourful periods in our history? A bit of all three, I think.
The first half of this book seemed to drag horribly as social changes, the rise of women’s rights movements and the evolution of the role of the Royal Family were explored largely through the writings of Wordsworth and other notable scribblers. In the second half, things livened up a bit as big chunks describing the reign of Queen Victoria and the political life of Winston Churchill dominated the text. I did like the way the author off-set Churchill’s period of influence with sections on George Orwell. The two were obviously politically miles apart, but they were both outspoken orators of uncomfortable truths. I think this was the section of the book that worked best.
As I’ve found on numerous occasions when listening to these volumes, some key moments of history seem to have hitherto passed me by. For example, I’d previously known nothing of the Seige of Lucknow (1857) or the Great Famine in India (1876-78). I also was reminded of the enormous scale of the British Empire at it’s peak - in 1913 23% of the worlds population were under British rule. A staggering fact but one undermined by the knowledge that in achieving this level of control and influence the treatment of many native inhabitants was far from acceptable!
As I came close to the end I began to notice how some sections were skimpy in the extreme. For example, WW1 was barely covered - although WW2 was granted more space – and all events after 1945 were virtually skipped over. The establishment of the Welfare State was touched on as were the Thatcher years (dismissively) but suddenly Shama was winding it all up with his reflections on where Britain goes next.
The body of work comprised in these three volumes is staggering and I’ve gained a great deal from working through them. I highly recommend these books (and/or the BBC television series that accompanied their release) to anyone interested in exploring the history of this island.
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