Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire
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Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  690 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Simon Winchester, struck by a sudden need to discover exactly what was left of the British Empire, set out across the globe to visit the far-flung islands that are all that remain of what once made Britain great. He traveled 100,000 miles back and forth, from Antarctica to the Caribbean, from the Mediterranean to the Far East, to capture a last glint of imperial glory.

His...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 15th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published December 31st 1985)
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Rob Bliss
He writes well because he's a journalist. But this book falls short in its aim. He wants to travel to the outposts but forgets tons of them. The map shows where they are. He has a chapter on Pitcairn Island but he doesn't go there. It's called "Pitcairn and Other Territories". The other territories are Henderson Island and Ireland. That's right, Ireland.

Which is my main problem with Winchester. He is very English. Always mentions if people living in the outposts have pictures of the Queen and he...more
Michael
Simon Winchester, b. 1944 London, M.A., Oxford (Geology) 1966, geological exploration Uganda 1967, changes career to journalism 1968, the Guardian, covers the Troubles incl. Bloody Sunday, Watergate, 80s and 90s travel books, mostly Asian, switches to book-writing full-time.

1998 (age 54), first breakthrough blockbuster, The Professor and the Madman about the OED. 2003 best-seller, Krakatoa. 5-6 books about Asia amidst a total output of ~25 books in total.

this 1986 book OUTPOSTS is the most succe...more
Wendell
Outposts is perhaps the oddest of Winchester’s many books; surely it is the most melancholy. The three years of journeys that were required to complete the book—which took Winchester to dozens of far-flung destinations spattered across the globe—were apparently both exhausting and disheartening. Or, perhaps we should dispense with the word “apparently”: Winchester makes his exhaustion (with the travel, with the topic) and his disappointment more than clear. His typical humor is largely absent an...more
Lisa
Did I ever really know that all these spread out islands from ocean to ocean were part of the British Empire? No, and apparently very few Brits knew this either.

Simon Winchester researched which significant islands which make up the colonies of the United Kingdom were inhabited and set out to see these, and it took him three years to do them. Because some are so very well neglected, he had to visit several by begging favors to take military transport or coming in by ship with the mail. In one ca...more
JackieB
This confused me at first, but then I caught on. I think Simon Winchester wanted to be an explorer, like the explorers in Victorian times. He wanted to overcome hardship and difficulty during his travels and find something wonderful and exotic at the end of them. For example, how did he travel to Gibraltar? Fly to Tangiers and get a boat over the straits (i.e. the usual route in the 80's)? No, he tried to recreate part of an epic journey made on foot by Britsh author in the 1930's. This was doom...more
Artur Coelho
Ao dealbar do século XX, o sol não se punha nos vastos domínios do império britânico. No final do mesmo século, com Hong Kong prestes a ser devolvida à China, ainda é legítimo dizer o mesmo, embora das vastas extensões territoriais americanas, africanas e asiáticas apenas reste uma enorme lista de pequenos territórios na sua maior parte desabitados, símbolos de um poderio desvanecido. É uma busca destes vestígios imperiais que Winchester se propõe neste livro encantador, com uma regra: de fora f...more
Jordan
What an exciting premise for a book: one last look at Britain's remaining territories, now known as the British Overseas Territories. These are places so small and so many and yet so far apart that the Sun never does set on Britain's territories.

I loved reading this. The writing style appealed to me, as did the history lessons liberally sprinkled throughout the book. Winchester seems to harbour a romantic ideal of what the Empire was--something once run by people who cared and officials who trie...more
Jason
his is an intriguing book of a journey to the remnants of what remains of the British Empire, about 30 years ago. Beginning seemingly out of curiosity sake, the book is a travelogue of over a 100,000 miles to the edges of the inhabited earth. Unfortunately, some of the writing is now dated, and unfortunately for the residents of these far flung minor colonies, many of the concerns about them have not been addressed.

Winchester, a British writer and journalist, living in New England, undertook a j...more
Deb
I enjoyed this read. Where would I learn about these obscure islands and the people who persist on living in such isloation, but in such beautiful places. Very interesting. Certainly got the feeling that I went around the world. Plus, there were some great sailing / adventure stories. It was a challenge to understand how people can choose such isolation, such a laid-back life, and such little ambition. I want to understand those life choices, but it is a challenge for me.

The book reinforced my s...more
James
Back in 1997, a volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat blew its top, killing 19 people and burying half the island in ash. After the dust had settled, residents of the British protectorate begged London for more aid to rebuild their homes. The UK development minister famously retorted: "They'll be wanting golden elephants next."

Britain's indifference and sometimes outright hostility to its remaining overseas territories is a recurring theme in Simon Winchester's book. His journey to what...more
Jerry Smith
Winchester writes fluidly and with wit and enthusiasm as well as a depth of researched knowledge on his topic of choice. This book is no exception although the subject matter is of considerably less weight than many others he has tackled.

That said, this is an entertaining (for a Brit anyway) look at the last surviving relics of the British Empire including Hong Kong at the time of writing. Obviously the world has changed since this was penned.

As I say, interesting and encouraging of further res...more
Chris
I had a tough time getting through this one. Winchester's goal was to travel to all of the remaining colonial outposts still under British rule (as of the 1980's when he wrote the book). In each chapter, Winchester introduced a different colony, telling about it's history and current state of affairs, plus he throws in his adventures in getting to these places and his experiences there.

I usually love his travelogue writing style, but unfortunately, he rambled too much in this one. Also, for many...more
Eric
Winchester is an interesting writer, to be sure. This book comes out of a conversation he apparently had with some friends over dinner back in the 1980s. The group was trying to recall what, at that time, was still a part of the British Empire. Winchester set out on a journey to visit every place still a part of the Empire.

Many islands, really chunks of rocks in the ocean, were (and are) still part of the empire. Winchester does a pretty evenhanded job of discussing the historical relevance of h...more
John Scott
It has been interesting to read this book 20 years after publication. A very readable mix of history and travel and with that some very interesting events that would pass the reader by generally. There are a couple of very strong chapters, "Tristan", "St Helena" and the "Falklands" for example. "Pitcairn and other territories" just seems an ill fit. The final chapter "Some Reflections" seems dated. The Further reading seems perfunctory.

In the end an easy read so it was never that hard to read p...more
Wendy
The concept of this book is terrific- travelling to all of the remaining colonies and territories of the British Empire. The writing, however, is a little dry. It is worth reading, but don't expect a real page-turner. The book was reprinted in 2003/2004, but was not updated in any way for the huge changes that happened world-wide in those years. About 32 countries came into existence during that time period. For people old enough to remember the mid-eighties, you can just keep reminding yourself...more
Tamara
I can honestly say that this is the first audiobook i've ever managed to listen to all the way through. Winchesters kinda wry, kinda snobby, not very dense storytelling is just perfect for not completely missing the plot while walking or swimming or whatever.

It's a bit dated, but that adds a few touches of anachronistic cold war exotica here and there. One also has to assume that a lot of the more esoteric weirdnesses of living in some of these places has been ameliorated a lot in the years sin...more
Richard
A historical curiosity now, Outposts was written in the post-Falkland Wars dotage of the British Empire, but before the UK rebounded somewhat as the Cool Brittania of the 90's and beyond. For all that, an entertaining if at times soporific trawl through the author's visits to the 'outposts' of Empire - generally forgotten islands and strategic rocks like Gibraltar.

Donna
Very interesting read about each of the last outposts of the British Empire. Each chapter is an island in itself. Relating how the author was able to get to the outpost, many difficult, and the history of the place and its people and how and why the British became involved in the first place and why they hold on to some of the most remote places in the world.
Bill Lively
An interesting read on what is left of the British Empire ... mainly small islands that most people have never heard of, like island of Tristan da Cunha, or have little knowledge of, like Ascension Island. I love the name of the capital of Tristan, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.
Popup-ch
More light-hearted than Winchesters other books, this work relates his travels to the remaining parts of the British Empire, such as Tristan da Cunha, the Pitcairn Islands, the British Indian Ocean Territories and the British Virgin Islands.

Technically it's still true that the sun never sets in the British Domain. By the time the sun goes down in Cornwall, it's already high noon in the Caribbean colonies of Anguilla and others, as well as the Falklands. And when it's evening there, it's still l...more
Diane
The subtitle tells the story: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire. Winchester writes of his visits to the remaining 12 British colonies – all islands and many rather difficult to visit. Although a ardent anti-colonist, I enjoyed learning the history of the colonies. But, overall it is typical of the bad Winchester books. Some of his books are wonderful (e.g., The Man Who Loved China) but when Winchester intrudes too much into his own writing, the results are boring. I finally...more
Alice
The author does come across as rather paternalistic and pro empire but he seems to have had a good adventure, and I liked reading about the islands he visited.

On many occasions he meets people he knew from school or is somehow related to, placing him firmly establishment, no wonder he is so attached to the idea that the empire was kind and caring and knew best for its subjects.

The bits that have really dated in this book are when he refers to Richard Branson as 'a record producer' rather than...more
Johnp
Simon Winchester has really come up with an extraordinary idea – capture what life is like in many of the forgotten lands still possessed by the British Empire. This book would be akin to comedy if the stories were not completely true! We watch as the author circles the globe, visiting well-known locales, such as Gibraltar and Saint Helena. However, the real beauty of this book is his visits to such unknown habitats as the British Indian Ocean Territory, Tristan da Cunha, and Ascension Island.

I...more
Kay
Not one of Winchester's best, in my opinion, though of passable interest to those with an interest in the British empire. The premise of the book struck me as something of a publishing "stunt" more than a real quest, which I suppose soured me from the get-go. Winchester's narratives tend to ramble and digress, and here, with no one overriding theme to tie things together, that trait seems more pronounced. All in all, I've read better travelogues and better musings on the twilight of the British...more
Janis
St. Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha...not your usual travel destinations. I enjoyed visiting these and other destinations with the witty and erudite Simon Winchester (I like him so much I want to fix him up with one of my anglophile friends -- Anne? Shanna?). For me, this armchair travel experience would have been more gratifying if it had come with a bit more history and background but that might simply be a reflection of my woefully inadequate education. Still, I enjoyed learning ab...more
Gurvan
Sympa mais un peu trop daté quand même désormais d'où une étoile de moins...
Kris
I purchased this as an audiobook,abridged version in 6 CDs.

Read by the author, and enhanced by his polished voice, this was a great "read" during long car trips. Winchester updated the narrative a bit, since the book was written nearly 15 years before the 2nd edition was released. I thoroughly enjoyed the description of Winchester's travels and his attempts to visit many of these locations - often with complications.

What did I take away from this book? That nations often turn their back on peop...more
Michael Harris
I picked up this early Simon Winchester (1985) which is a very humorous look at the furthest points of the "British Empire". There are nine short stories of his visit to these outposts and he writes in his most "investigative journalist" mode about the good and bad of the Crown in dealing with these territories. In this book it feels like I am reading a "British" Bill Bryson. In one funny line he writes of Britain and Argentina's conduct over the Falklands as "two bald men fighting over a comb"....more
Emily-Jane Orford
I feel like I've just been around the world on a wonderful tour of the British Empire. I learned a lot and was entertained at the same time. Winchester takes the reader along with him on his travels. What a great book! Although slightly outdated now, I really enjoyed Winchester's sense of humour as well as his adherence to history and fact. Well done! Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, award winning author of "The Whistling Bishop" and "F-Stop: A Life in Pictures".
L Greyfort
An enjoyable, leisurely read. Winchester's travel to all these remaining specks of the Empire allows him to explore some byways of British history which either get overlooked or under-explored. He does not refrain from injecting his own (occasionally strong) feelings regarding that history. And it can be fun to learn about just how challenging travelling to and living in some of these remote places can be.
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel and his articles appear in several travel publi...more
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