- Taschenbuch: 368 Seiten
- Verlag: Viking; Auflage: UK ed. (7. Juni 2012)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0670919594
- ISBN-13: 978-0670919598
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 12,7 x 2,2 x 19,7 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 2 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 96.475 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 7. Juni 2012
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He writes with wit and penetration, and every page of Empire can be read with relaxed pleasure (Spectator )
Paxman is witty, incisive, acerbic and opinionated . . . In short, he carries the whole thing off with panache bordering on effrontery (Piers Brendon Sunday Times )
A very engaging account...with a good sprinkling of jokes, funny nicknames and sexual references. Paxman makes some very sharp points and writes well (Guardian ) -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe.
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Jeremy Paxman was born in Yorkshire and educated at Cambridge. He is an award-winning journalist who spent ten years reporting from overseas, notably for Panorama. He is the author of five books including The English. He is the presenter of Newsnight and University Challenge and has presented BBC documentaries on various subjects including Victorian art and Wilfred Owen.
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"When India became independent in August 1947, the Empire lost four out of five of its citizens and freedom beckoned for all the others: Without India, the Empire was no more than a sounding gong." - from EMPIRE: WHAT RULING THE WORLD DID TO THE BRITISH
I acquired a fondness for England early. Growing up in my demographic - white, upper-middle class - in Southern California in the 1950s, it's not surprising that I was exposed to the tales of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Sherlock Holmes by parents who loved to read. Moreover, while attending Catholic elementary school, the nuns instilled a horrible fascination with Henry VIII, who beheaded wives and wrenched England from the embrace of the Holy Mother Church. (Dude!)
And, while collecting stamps, my perception soon expanded to Great Britain and the Empire. There were so many little, gummed pieces of paper from a multitude of faraway, exotic places with the young Queen's image on them! But even by then, the Empire was dissolving, India having gone its own way two years before I was born. But I wasn't aware of it.
EMPIRE by Jeremy Paxman is an intelligent and congenial discourse on the sociological effects on the British of possessing an Empire. Mind you, it's not, nor claims to be, a chronological history of the imperium, though the scope of the book is from beginning to end of the Empire's golden age.
The author is quite candid about a significant portion of the early Empire's financial underpinnings, i.e. the trade in slaves and opium. However, Paxman also points out that, once the British government took over administration of the foreign territories from the great trading houses and put it into the fairly reliable hands of the stolid colonial officers recruited from the home island's middle class eager to serve Queen and country, the British Empire wasn't a necessarily bad empire to be ruled by as far as such go; it left many valuable legacies (as exemplified in Road through Kurdistan: The Narrative of an Engineer in Iraq). It was only after the Second World War that a growing sentiment among the British public of "Why bother?" acted as a catalyst to bring the Empire low.
Occasionally, the author injects a bit of wry humor:
"Even those who had arrived in (India) as bachelors had only to wait for the longed-for cold season and the arrival of what later became known as the Fishing Fleet - young women from the home country out to net themselves a husband from among the single men serving in India ... The women who failed to find anyone suitable went back to England, nicknamed 'returned empties'."
A reader well-versed in Empire history may wonder why the author barely touches on some topics, if at all: the loss of the American colonies, the rise (and decline) of the British navy, the Afghan Wars, the partition of India. However, these omissions do not detract from the effect of the whole narrative in any way.
As an adult reader, such books as Seize the Fire : Heroism, Duty, and the Battle of Trafalgar and LIKE WOLVES ON THE FOLD: The Defence of Rorke's Drift created for me mental pictures accompanied by a soundtrack that included "Land of Hope and Glory" and "Rule Britannia." Of course, there's not much of that anymore. As Paxman concludes:
"The British Empire had begun with a series of pounces. Then it marched. Next it swaggered. Finally, after wandering aimlessly for awhile, it slunk away."
Nowadays, the state of the Empire is best reflected in Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire and Teatime Islands, though even here, as noted in the former by author Simon Winchester when visiting Tristan da Cunha, the last faint echoes of Empire can still call-up some of the old feelings:
"A bugle was blown, a banner was raised, a salute was made, an anthem was played - and the Colonial Governor of St. Helena was formally welcomed on to the tiniest and loneliest dependency in the remnant British Empire. I found I was watching it through a strange golden haze, which cleared if I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand: the children looked so proud, so eager to please, so keen to touch the hand from England, from the wellspring of their official existence."
The reader may be left wondering what Queen Elizabeth II, who's presided over the Empire's ever diminishing status over the past 60 years, thinks of it all, but she's never been interviewed - not ever. Perhaps, "We are not amused."
His answer appears to be through technological advancement (which gave the British the means), mercantilist opportunism (which gave the British the motives) pure accident (which, in Robert Clive's victory at Plassey, fortuitously gave the British India) and self-delusion (which gave the British the belief that they had a moral pre-eminence to do whatever they wanted). The consequent sustainability of the Empire, so Paxman goes onto explain, can be put down to the British public school system, which turned out jolly good chaps to go into the colonial service and their stiff-upper lip wives to support them in their endeavours.
Paxman's judgement is not only that the British Empire was a bad thing at the time for the world, but that in the longer term it has been the worst thing that could have happened to Britain herself. Dean Rusk once said that Britain has lost an Empire, but yet to find a role. Paxman puts it in far more `Paxmanic' terms: that the only country not yet to have decolonized is Britain itself. It remains, firmly stuck in its past glories which, well, were not so glorious, as it turns out.
The book, then, would be rather depressing if you (like me) are British, were it not for Paxman's style of writing and sardonic humour which makes this a brilliant read. He writes like he interviews politicians, with a kind of prosecutorial approach where questions are asked in such a loaded tone, that the viewer will be left guffawing at the answer for the lie that it is, before the politician's mouth has even opened. In his writing style, one can hear Paxman's disdainful, accusatory voice being used to full effect on nutcases ranging from General Gordon, to Cecil Rhodes, to a retired brigadier grumbling about how "politicians don't know Orientals like we do".
My personal favourite part of this book is the description of the colonial service recruitment process, which sought to select sound-but-not-too-bright chaps churned out by the public school system, able to take the hardship of serving as district officers in the remotest parts of the world. The most important quality, it seemed, was a sense of fair play inculcated through the game of cricket. (This take on things certainly gives new meaning to the phrase "Test Match").
However, whilst I enjoyed this book, I have come away from it with the view that Paxman's harsh judgement is too much of a blunt instrument. The British Empire, unfairly, comes off worse than Home Secretary Michael Howard did after Paxman had (quite fairly) bludgeoned him into being the parody of an evasive politician, in their notorious interview. For a fairer more balanced depiction of Empire, I would refer readers to Niall Ferguson's "Empire: How Britain Made the World".
The export of the rule of law, globalization through international trade and English as a Lingua Franka, are achievements not to be sniffed at. I live and work in Hong Kong (and, incidentally, being part British and part Chinese, am a product of a union between one of those public-school jolly good chaps and a Hong Kong lass). Not for nothing does Hong Kong, one of the most important international finance centres in the world, trumpet these three achievements as its main selling points. Yes, the "two systems" part of the "one country, two systems" formula, are product of the British Empire.
In education as well, one cannot help noticing that the British public school system which Paxman punishes, is still much in demand (if not from the British) from the wealthy families in China, India and other countries fast advancing towards superpowerdom.
Probably the most lasting feature of Empire, however (and Paxman does elude to this) are the sports which the British created to keep their district officers trained and entertained: soccer, cricket and rugby. The globalization of English Premier League football may in fact be viewed as the continuation of the British Empire in today's world, albeit in another form. On a Monday morning, offices from Shanghai to Singapore, from Hong Kong to Hanoi, will abound with conversations about the exploits Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal at the weekend. The Premier League football shirt is one of the most observable fashion items across Asia; David Beckham a more recognized figure than David Cameron, even in the former's retirement.
For this reason, Paxman's observation of Britain being the last country in the world not to decolonize may not be too far from the truth. And the multi-cultural Britain on display in the Jubilee and Olympic year of 2012, showed a nation more comfortable with its place in the world, and the contribution it has made to it, than perhaps Paxman makes out.
All in all, therefore, although I may not agree with all his conclusions, this is a well-written, thoroughly thought-provoking book, full of wit and observation and worthy of a five-star rating.
Peter Gregoire (author of Article 109)
It would have been interesting to compare that as a theme in one of the chapters. Nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
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