David Sarkies's Reviews > Empire: How Britain Made The Modern World

Empire by Niall Ferguson
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Jul 23, 11

bookshelves: history
Read in January, 2010

This book is brilliant. I first learnt of the author, Professor Niall Ferguson, when I watched the series called 'The Ascent of Money' and then read the book that the series was based upon, so when I saw this book in the bookstore it was an automatic purchase.
Like 'The Ascent of Money' Professor Feguson deals with a complex topic in an easy to read and very engaging way. In fact, the book reads more like a novel than a dry and dull history book, and it goes to demonstrate that history is much, much more than simply a collection of dates and dead people. In fact, when put forward as such, history plays out like a story that not even the greatest writer could create from his head (and I can assert to that, not that I consider myself a great writer).
Anyway, what did I learn from this book, because I do not believe that a book is worth reading unless you learn something from it. First of all, I discovered that Britain ruled the world from the Indian Subcontinent. India was indeed the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, which is why the fought tooth and nail to keep it. I also learnt that because of its empire, Britain was no match for any other budding world power. When you take into account the resources that it was able to draw upon, there was no way that Napoleon or the Kaiser, or even Hitler, had any chance of defeating them. However, it is also true that if, at the turn of the 20th Century, you said that in 50 years the British Empire would be no more, you would have been laughed at (and indeed, that was something that Winston Churchill did say). Yet, it turned out that way. Despite winning World War II, the British Empire did not survive World War II.
Finally, while I am not a fan of imperialism, and indeed not a fan of American Imperialism, we must always consider the alternatives, and this is something that India did in World War II. Britain, as indeed America, are not perfect, but if the alternatives are Nazism, Imperial Japan, or Stalinist Russia, then in the end, the British, and now the American Empires are the much better alternative.
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