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Empire

How Britain Made the Modern World
Written by: Niall Ferguson
Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
Length: 16 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the unabridged audiobook edition of Empire by Niall Ferguson, read by Jonathan Keeble.

Once vast swathes of the globe were coloured imperial red, and Britannia ruled not just the waves but the prairies of America, the plains of Asia, the jungles of Africa and the deserts of Arabia. Just how did a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic achieve all this? And why did the empire on which the sun literally never set finally decline and fall?

Niall Ferguson's acclaimed Empire brilliantly unfolds the imperial story in all its splendours and its miseries, showing how a gang of buccaneers and gold diggers planted the seed of the biggest empire in all history - and set the world on the road to modernity.

©2017 Niall Ferguson (P)2017 Penguin AudioBooks

What the critics say

"The most brilliant British historian of his generation...Ferguson examines the roles of 'pirates, planters, missionaries, mandarins, bankers and bankrupts' in the creation of history's largest empire...he writes with splendid panache...and a seemingly effortless, debonair wit." (Andrew Roberts)
"Dazzling...wonderfully readable." ( New York Review of Books)
"A remarkably readable précis of the whole British imperial story - triumphs, deceits, decencies, kindnesses, cruelties and all." (Jan Morris)

What members say

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Extremely biased and unbalanced book.

Very disappointed in this book as it presents an exclusively negative view of the British Empire and especially editorial regarding values and traditions; both religious and otherwise. The bad heavily dominated any good in the writers opinion. I could not finish the book as it became increasingly wearisome and disappointing.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dorothy
  • 2017-11-04

Such a great listen - What a History Lesson

I have listened to Niall Ferguson's book "Civilization" three times. I know I will do the same with this book. There is so much in this book which remains pertinent to the situations and times we are witnessing and living in today. This book pieced together and explained so many shadowy yet prevalent cultural happenings such as the Boar War and Gallipoli: things I knew the NAMES of but really had no understanding of why they had happened or what their importance meant to current events.

While there is much that was arrogant and even brutal about the British Empire, Mr, Ferguson explains the origins and outcomes in an even handed way. The book is written in an easy to comprehend manner, it is not a boring academic tome that people who lack a Phd can understand or enjoy.

I can't emphasize enough how amazing Jonathan Keeble is as a narrator. He is pitch perfect. I often look for his books because he seems to make anything he reads even better. I basically listened to this book in one sitting. It was very, very good.

30 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Dennis Arve Wilkinson
  • 2018-01-18

It wasn’t all bad was it?

Empire building is not a popular idea today. It smacks of abuse and extortion
Ferguson breaks down the good the bad and the ugly of the British Empire, but doesn’t conclude with the expected thumbs down. It’s more of a thumbs sideways perhaps even pointed a little upwards. Can he do that? Both his primary source stories and his reasons are worth listening to!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Buretto
  • 2017-11-15

Worst empire ever, except for all the rest.

An engaging, if a bit of an uneven, account of the British Empire, as the author vacillates between a contemptuous view of the notion of empire and unabashed patriotism. The result is a bit disconcerting, abandoning a more measured style for a one that tends to reach for extremes of emotion. But oddly, it works.

The book gives unique perspectives on the major events of the empire, particularly in America and India. The author does go a bit afield with suppositions of alternate realities regarding slavery and colonialism, which can't strictly be supported, but it's all good food for thought. Where it starts to strain is the repetition of how the British empire's actions could be viewed as similar to the SS in Nazi Germany, but not as bad.... the Boer treatment of Africa, but not as bad... the Japanese colonisation of Asia, but not as bad. While certainly understandable, it's a theme that perhaps could have been made with a slightly subtler hammer.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan Davis
  • 2018-04-14

Enlightening

I am glad I finished this enlightening work. The middle drug out in details, but the body of work is worth the time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • KEITH
  • 2018-01-06

How Britain gained and lost the Empire

This is a very easy book to listen to and understand. It takes the reader from the beginning of the Empire (when the goal was to steal what they could from Spain), to the founding of colonies (and the ability of Britain to change its policies after losing America) to owning 1/4 of the land mass on the globe. The author points out that overall Britain wanted to do do the moral thing for its people.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • J. R.
  • 2018-03-21

Enjoyable book

Excellent narrator, good story, the only part I did not care for was the endless "white guilt" complex of the author, and groveling apologies in nearly every chapter...

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Bill
  • 2018-05-14

Clearly Skewed

This is a very interesting work, although it is presented as though it is an unbiased academic work it is far from that. Mr. Ferguson is clearly an intelligent man, but is a bit of a revisionist on America and tends to be an English elitist. In summary the world was so much better when England was in charge.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony Nana Kwamu
  • 2019-08-10

Superbly Informative

This book neither glorifies nor makes an apology for the British Empire. It simply provides information, leaving it up to the reader/listener to make his/her own judgment. More importantly, it really answered the question for me of how a few million people from a tiny country of England came to govern a fifth of the planet and make their culture the most widespread on earth. The book is interesting all the way, with little stories and little known narratives plugged in the enhance the big historical events depicted in this book. Highly recommend this for any history buffs out there (author of "Renee: St. Mary's Virus).

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  • Pisces
  • 2019-07-09

Excellent history of the British Empire through the ages

Excellent history. Broad in scope in time and place (especially India). Interesting study in how the Conquerors viewed themselves.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-06-05

an insightful view on important history

although for many specific conclusions I'm sure a number of historians have different views (most notably Francis fukuyama) it nonetheless provides a great historical context for how the empire was birthed grew and waned.