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Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power

by Niall Ferguson

Empire. The Rise And Demise Of The British World Order And The Lessons For Global Power .

At its peak in the nineteenth century, the British Empire was the largest empire ever known, governing roughly a quarter of the worlds population. In Empire, Niall Ferguson explains how an archipelago of rainy islands... came to rule the world, and examines the costs and consequences, both good and bad, of British imperialism. Though the books breadth is impressive, it is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the British Empire; rather, Ferguson seeks to glean lessons from this history for future, or present, empires--namely America. Pointing out that the U.S. is both a product of the British Empire as well as an heir to it, he asks whether America--an empire in denial--should seek to shed or to shoulder the imperial load it has inherited. As he points out in this fascinating book, there is compelling evidence for both. Observing that the difficulty with the achievements of empire is that they are much more likely to be taken for granted than the sins of empire, Ferguson stresses that the British did do much good for humanity in their quest for domination: promotion of the free movement of goods, capital, and labor and a common rule of law and governance chief among them. The question is not whether British imperialism was without blemish. It was not. The question is whether there could have been a less bloody path to modernity, he writes. The challenge for the U.S., he ar gues, is for it to use its undisputed power as a force for positive change in the world and not to fall into some of the same traps as the British before them. Covering a wide range of topics, including the rise of consumerism (initially fueled by a desire for coffee, tea, tobacco, and sugar), the biggest mass migration in history (20 million emigrants between the early 1600s and the 1950s), the impact of missionaries, the triumph of capitalism, the spread of the English language, and globalization, this is a brilliant synthesis of various topics and an extremely entertaining read. --Shawn Carkonen

Features: * Click here to view our Condition Guide and Shipping Prices If you read more than the introduction, you will realize that Empire is not simply an apology or a British view of history. Ferguson has told the story of the British Empire without worrying about the ignorant political correctness of the day. While it may be fashionable to think that the British were savage rulers in red coats, its simply not true on the whole. I agree with Fergusons history of the British Empire on three major points: 1. The British Empire, overall, more than any other power during the time, imposed, yes imposed, the Rule of Law on the world. 2. The British Empire facilitated the transfer of capital to the developing world, thereby beginning the process of globalization, opening up markets to competition, and overall, raising the standard of living for millions of people. 3. The British Empire, in a time of empires, prevented far more savage nations (Japan, Germany, etc) from subjugating the world. As other reviewers have said, however, nothing is perfect. There were disasters, near-genocides, and corrupt politicians along the way. Thats what happens in the real world. Empires and nations are forged by the sword if need be. The true test of any empire or nation is how it treats the conquered after the battle or coup. The British Empire, with many exceptions and problems along the way, was a benevolent master. Critics like to say that the best path would have been one in which there were no empires or colonizers. This is an irrelevant critique, similar to claiming that life would be better without the existence of cancer. Its wishful thinking. Portugal, France, Spain, Germany, Japan, and Russia have all, at one time or another, whether they admit it or not, been partakers of the great game known as Empire Building. I would choose to be a subject of the British Empire a thousand times over before I would choose any of the others. This is not a false dilemma. If the British Empire didnt colonize the world, one of the other powers most certainly would have. Finally, the British have left a legacy of stable, industrial, first-world countries in their wake. Canada, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand spring to mind, not to mention the fact that Britain chose to oppose Germany rather than placate her in the second World War, which prevented countless atrocities from occurring. Former British Colonies are bastions of stability and law in a world that is anything but stable and law-abiding. What other conquering power has done so much?

Its easy to focus on one point or another (and admittedly there are many to chose from: Boer War, slave trade, etc.) and use that to damn the entire history of the British Empire; however, that is the type of sloppy thinking that belongs in coffee shops and meetings of the Young Campus Communists. Looking at the broad sweep of history shows that the British Empire was not an evil entity, hell-bent on bringing misery to colonized peoples. Overall, the British Empire was a force for good, bringing light, law, order, free markets, progress, and yes, freedom to her peoples, both foreign and domestic.

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