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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)
"A remarkably readable précis of the whole British imperial story - triumphs, deceits, decencies, kindnesses, cruelties and all." (Jan Morris)
"Dazzling...wonderfully readable." ( New York Review of Books)

What listeners say about Empire

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A fascinating and well performed audio book.

I picked up this book because I enjoyed Niall’s books Civilization. This new work is much like his previous - full of fascinating facts and accounts which bring to life the world of 18th and 19th centuries. It’s clear that the author spent countless hours studying historical records, journals, and facts to prepare this work - a brilliant summary of how the British empire came to be what it was. Modern history lovers are bound to find this summary extensive and fascinating. Undoubtably, the particular facts and stories which Niall chose to highlight in this book show his particular bias on such controversial topics as how Christianity spread in Africa and Asia. But it’s easy to see how difficult it would be to present an unbiased review of the facts. In the end, although I disagreed with a number of the conclusions made, I enjoyed the presentation.

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major themes are very interesting

Overall, the ideas are compelling and I learned a lot of interesting stuff. A few chapters go overboard on quotes from stuffy British historical characters. The chapter about the role of religion goes on and on and on and on. But, if you are even considering this title, you know you're in for some heavy learning. A good listen though, and the reader does some good voices.

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Imperative Listen For Those That Wonder

I really enjoyed listening to this book. It was very detailed, and the chronology was succinct from the origins of the empire all the way to the selling off of the empire. I believe this book has empowered me to correct individuals that unabashedly utter lazy claims about the origins and motivations of the British Empire. I also believe this book should be taught in schools, and I will be sure to pass down this information to my children. Thank you

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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.

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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!

12 people found this 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.

38 people found this 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 people found this 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.

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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...

8 people found this 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.

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  • John Birkhead
  • 2020-08-26

A great summary of the British Empire

I was born in Britain. I think Furguson has put together a great guide to the development and fall of the empire. While Furguson is a little more gung ho for the empire as a whole than I am, I agree with many of his conclusions. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in modern history, the current world and how it got that way. For good or bad.

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  • Craven Moorehead
  • 2020-04-07

Rule Britannica

As a native citizen of the colony of Canada, I have a new appreciation for the contributions of the Great British. Very good read.

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  • Peter Ryers
  • 2018-02-24

Great read

A wonderfully insightful look at the British empire. Understandable and enjoyable for the non-historian.

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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 people found this helpful