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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 adventures in these distant and forgotten ends of the earth make compelling, often funny reading and tell a story most of us had thought was over: a tale of the last outposts in Britain's imperial career and those who keep the flag flying.

With a new introduction, this updated edition tells us what has happened to these extraordinary places while the author's been away.

Topics: Colonialism

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 27, 2009
ISBN: 9780061978326
List price: $11.14
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Loved reading about all the "relics" of the British Empire. Just wish that there was an update at the end, it would be nice to know if Simon Winchester ever went back to any of the places he visited in the early 1980s.Overall a very good read about some very remote, tiny places.read more
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Oh did I love this book. Winchester's look at the rocks and atolls and little plots that constitute the remaining remnants of the British Empire is colorful, funny, and smart. Winchester has deep empathy for the people he meets, and is able to discuss both the good and the bad of the world's Brit-flavored places and societies. Winchester always has an opinion, and it's frequently an uncommon one. That's just one of the reasons I like his writing so much.The humor is often droll, and insular. And I just love that. It's sometimes work to follow everything he's saying, but for me it's a labor of love.read more
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I never thought I would say this about a book written by Simon Winchester, but it's boring. His pompousness (what's with former British colonies being "better" than their French/Dutch/Italian counterparts) I can take, but after reading a full sentence filled with names of obscure places that I don't care to know about, I decided that I didn't have the patience to go on with this book.read more
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Reviews

Loved reading about all the "relics" of the British Empire. Just wish that there was an update at the end, it would be nice to know if Simon Winchester ever went back to any of the places he visited in the early 1980s.Overall a very good read about some very remote, tiny places.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Oh did I love this book. Winchester's look at the rocks and atolls and little plots that constitute the remaining remnants of the British Empire is colorful, funny, and smart. Winchester has deep empathy for the people he meets, and is able to discuss both the good and the bad of the world's Brit-flavored places and societies. Winchester always has an opinion, and it's frequently an uncommon one. That's just one of the reasons I like his writing so much.The humor is often droll, and insular. And I just love that. It's sometimes work to follow everything he's saying, but for me it's a labor of love.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I never thought I would say this about a book written by Simon Winchester, but it's boring. His pompousness (what's with former British colonies being "better" than their French/Dutch/Italian counterparts) I can take, but after reading a full sentence filled with names of obscure places that I don't care to know about, I decided that I didn't have the patience to go on with this book.
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This is the fascinating narrative of Winchester's travels to the remnants of the British Empire in the early 1980s. He traveled to every then-remaining British Colony with the exception of the Pitcairn Islands (though he says he has visited twice since he wrote the original book in the forward to the 2004 edition), British Antarctica and St. George Island. He provides a brief history of each colony, a nice narrative of the visit itself, and insight into the colonist's lives. He was actually in the Falkland Islands at the start of the war with Argentina, and was subsequently imprisoned in Argentina as a suspected spy (I'd love to read his book about that experience - Prison Diary: Argentina). My only problem with the book was his pessimism about British handling of these last remnants of her great Empire. I would expect more of her, and wish the forward to the new edition would have discussed this more. He did at least mention that the loyal citizens of St. Helena now enjoy almost complete rights as citizens of Great Britain (along with Gibralter and the Falklands), but it seems that most of the remaining colonies are still in a state of exclusion from the rights of full citizenship. Highly recommended.
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Simon Winchester's travels to the remnants of the British Empire serves as a genial introduction to the remote places one is unlikely to visit (Gibraltar, Hong Kong and the collection of islands around the Caribbean excepted). To control the world's shipping lanes, the British Empire established posts and colonies in every strategic location. While most spots with a sizable number of inhabitants have nowadays declared their independence, Britannia still rules over the forgotten rocks of Saint Helena and Tristan. There is a curious mix between tourist (Bermuda, Gibraltar, etc.) and military destinations (Diego Garcia, Saint Helena, Gibraltar). The book having been written during the Cold War in 1984, with Soviet nuclear submarines lurking beyond Bermuda, the military obviously didn't like the presence of a snooping journalist. Winchester draws a perverse joy out of not following protocol (a bit of research, which he surely had done beforehand, would have informed him that he could not simply walk from Spain to Gibraltar). This rebellious spirit lives in perfect conformity in drinking tea with the local governor in his best British Untertan mode. The two themes of the books are pride in British accomplishments and glory that contrasts with somewhat dire British living conditions that lag behind US/First World standards. In reality, the British presence at many of these locations is but to serve as landlord to American tourists and American military forces. Insofar as the current British Empire now only rules over distant rocks and gulls it has become a benevolent institution, similar from the transformation of many crusading orders that lost their territories but have reinvented themselves into modern healthcare providers.A fast and fun read.
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I've always wanted to visit St. Helena, and this book only reaffirms that. Winchester does and admirable job of introducing some of the most isolated places on earth to the reader.I love travel writing, but one thing that always gets me about it is how timid many writers can be in calling a spade a spade. If a town or a region is a depressing dump, say so. Winchester says so. He loves the physical beauty of the Falklands, but bemoans the air of defeat in the capitol and the seeming unwillingness of the Islanders to help themselves along.Same goes for Turks & Caicos and Gibraltar.That being said, I'd still give my left arm to travel to every one of these places.
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