Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain

Front Cover
Allen Lane, 2012 - Colonization - 478 pages
6 Reviews

The enormous influence of the British Empire cannot be escaped. It has shaped the world in countless ways, repopulating continents, carving out nations, imposing its language, technology and values. For perhaps two centuries its existence, expansion, and final collapse could be seen as the single largest determinant of historical events. Now that it has gone, it seems to us baffling that such a strange global system could have once been so powerful.

What was the dynamic that led English-speakers to stand on the shores of the Pacific, to control the world's seaways, and create the financial institutions that transformed the global economy? John Darwin's provocative and richly enjoyable new book is an attempt to make us see anew how diverse, unpredictable and even chaotic the British Empire really was, controlled by interests that were often at loggerheads, and as much driven on by the weakness of others as by its own strength.

Unfinished Empireexplains what allowed the makers of Empire to be so sure of their right to claim North America, New Zealand or the African savannah, to be the greatest slave-traders but the first to abolish the trade, to use astonishing violence against their opponents but also claim to uphold the rule of law. By exploring the varying patterns of conquest, the ferocious rebellions, the urge to convert as well as to rule, the quarrels and conflicts between missionaries, farmers and merchants, and the sudden descent towards the Empire's final collapse, Unfinished Empire presents a surprising, original and often critical account of an extraordinary phenomenon.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - lgaikwad - LibraryThing

Note to myself: Speaking of his history of the British Empire and its demise, "...the long series of 'misjudgements' that we have traced...reveal something more interesting than the wisdom of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

John Darwin tries to pull off the near-impossible here: write a thorough narrative history of the rise and fall of the British empire in a single volume. It's a dense book, but he pursues his goal ... Read full review

All 6 reviews »

Other editions - View all

About the author (2012)

John Darwin's interest lies in the history of empires, both their rise and fall.He has written extensively on the decline of Britain's empire and teaches imperial and global history at Oxford, where he is a Fellow of Nuffield College. Most recently he is the author of After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000, which won the Wolfson History Prize, and The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830-1970.

Bibliographic information