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Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. August 2013

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A breadth of perspective few other imperial historians can boast. The British Empire really does look different in the light of it ... Breadth of vision, fizzing ideas and a brilliant style as well as superb scholarship ... It deserves to supplant every other book on this topic, including - though my publisher and bank manager won't thank me for saying this - my own. It is British imperial history at last without hang-ups; the one we've been waiting for (Bernard Potter History Today)

A brilliantly perceptive analysis of the forces and ideas that drove the creation of an extraordinary enterprise ... Bringing together his huge erudition, scrupulous fairness and elegant prose, Mr Darwin has produced a wonderfully stimulating account of something that today seems almost incredibly yet was, in historical terms, only yesterday. It is also a much-needed antidote both to the leftish consensus of the past 50 years that Britain's empire was unrelievedly awful ... and the recent triumphalist revisionism of more conservative historians (Economist)

Engrossing ... What Darwin adds to this insight is a rare, wonderful capacity for comparison. Empire here is a jigsaw of dreams and anxieties, conquests and loss of faith ... Seeing the imperial experience in the round like this does gives us a clearer, more subtle appreciation of the range of power and violence at play. It raises the historical writing on empire to another level (BBC History Magazine)

How incredibly refreshing it is when as distinguished an historian as John Darwin ... writes something as thoughtful, well-researched and persuasive as Unfinished Empire, which explains the half-millennium-long expansion of Britain across the globe in terms that genuinely make sense ... The author's deep familiarity with all the key sources of this vast subject allows him to pluck examples for his arguments from across the centuries and continents ... Best of all ... is the thought that Darwin's book might at long last herald the victory of the post-Marxist phase of imperial historiography, and not a moment too soon (Andrew Roberts Sunday Telegraph Book of the Week)

Balanced, original and impressive ... Subtle ... intelligent (Literary Review)

Comprehensive ... Darwin's erudition allows him to skirt around the narrow orthodoxies of apologist v critic and provide an insightful account of Britain's unlikely period of global hegemony (Sunday Times)

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

John Darwin's interest lies in the history of empires, both their rise and fall.He has written extensively on the decline of Britain's empire and teaches imperial and global history at Oxford, where he is a Fellow of Nuffield College. Most recently he is the author of After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000, which won the Wolfson History Prize, and The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830-1970.


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Von Heislitz am 17. Juli 2014
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Wer einen Überblick über das britische Weltreich sucht, mit allen Drum und Dran, ist hier richtig. Ich konnte das Buch schwer aus der Hand legen.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x91e0d2a0) von 5 Sternen 43 Rezensionen
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HASH(0x91e508c4) von 5 Sternen An enlightening journey 5. März 2013
Von Nelson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is an excellent book and so I am surprised to see no other reviews here as I can't believe others haven't read it.

I am of the view that the history of the largest empire the world has ever seen has to hold lessons for all of us, both in terms of successes and failure. In the this context, Darwin takes a refreshingly even handed approach - he does not eulogise but nor does he demonise. He appears to be able to rationally reflect on the elastic nature of how the Empire came about (and certainly the acqusition, formation and ruling of Colonies could and were vastly different), why it succeeded or did not succeed in various regions, what can be considered positive achievments and what were the negative consequences of British hegemony.

I have to say I don't always agree with all his conclusions, but that is the point of this book - it is there to make you think.

The final observation I would make is that one also can't view certain actions through the prism of modern sensibilities; what was done tended to reflect the cultural norms of the moment and just as God was an Englishman to those from London, I have no doubt he was also a Frenchman if you were from Paris or Russian if you were from Moscow - in short, the astonishing hubris of those who built the British Empire and the ingenuity and flexibility with which they did so is one the the more fascinating thematics of this marvellous book.

A splendid read.
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HASH(0x91e56c84) von 5 Sternen Accessible, edifying and enjoyable... 6. März 2013
Von FictionFan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
For the non-academic reader, any history book has to be first and foremost readable and this one most certainly is. Darwin has taken the huge subject of the British Empire and broken it down into a series of themed chapters that makes it accessible and enjoyable reading. For example, one chapter is devoted to Traffic and Trade, while another discusses Ruling Methods. This method allows Darwin to show how similarities and differences in the approach to controlling the empire depended on local circumstances; and to give a very clear picture of the global and historical context, placing the British Empire as one of a line of empires that have risen and fallen throughout history. In fact, while obviously the book is primarily about the British Empire, its scope and clarity of presentation made me feel almost as if I were reading a history of the world over the last 500 years.

Darwin tries successfully on the whole to maintain a neutral stance on the ethics of empire; if he is taking a position at all, it is that the empire was so differentiated and came about for such complex historical reasons that to argue that it was in some way an evil aberration is overly simplistic. Instead he shows, with great lucidity and considerable depth, the who, why, where, when and how; and then leaves the reader, armed with that information, to consider whether the effects were all bad, all good or somewhere in-between.

If I had any criticism, it would be that at points I wanted maps as a visual prompt to show the reach of both the formal and informal areas of influence at different points in history – the maps included were interesting, but concentrated more on specifics, like shipping routes or distribution of military resources. Darwin suggests that looking at the bright red zones on maps gives a misleading picture of the empire and he has persuaded me of that, but for those of us who can never quite remember where, say, Borneo actually is, they do help! However that is a very small criticism of what is an excellent book, thoroughly enjoyable and immensely edifying, that has left me very much better informed about the political and historical context, the rise and decline, and the global impact of and on the empire – highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.
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HASH(0x91e56264) von 5 Sternen The Accidental Empire 16. März 2013
Von John D. Cofield - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
John Darwin titled his masterly history Unfinished Empire to emphasize the haphazard process by which Great Britain came to possess a huge imperium. I chose to title my review The Accidental Empire because after reading it through it seemed to me that at times the British came into possession of their empire through incident and happenstance rather than any master plan or organization.

Unfinished Empire is an erudite but very accessible and entertaining work. Rather than attempting a purely chronological approach (which would have probably required several volumes to complete) Darwin chose a more comparative approach in which he analyzed the processes of contacting, taking possession of, and settling new areas of territory. He then moved on to the details of how the different colonies were governed, protected, forced into submission or eventually allowed to regain independence, and made part of a growing international economy. This approach works well, although Americans will find the less prominent place it allows the sections dealing with the thirteen Atlantic colonies and the American Revolution somewhat surprising. Throughout the book Darwin emphasizes that the British never went after an empire in the way the French, Spanish, and Portuguese did: as an organized and centrally directed enterprise. Instead, Britain's pluralistic society, growing economy based on private enterprise, early industrialization, and control of trade routes and shipping all combined with a world power vaccuum in the 18th and 19th centuries to create an empire. Once the British had power in a region like India they were determined to keep control of it, using their superior armed forces and weaponry and skillfully working to co-opt any possible areas of resistance.

There are many fascinating stories in Unfinished Empire: the details by which the British East India Company managed to weaken and replace the Mughals in India, or the process by which China was forced to open itself up to British trade, or the devious efforts of men like Cecil Rhodes to establish themselves in Africa and Asia, becoming personally wealthy and making their motherland's empire even larger. Just as fascinating are the stories of how the British Empire came to an end in the twentieth century as a result of catastrophic world war and economic exhaustion. Unlike some historians of Empire Darwin gives plenty of attention to the indigenous peoples who came under British domination and either suffered for it (like most Indians and Africans) or managed to maintain some independence and cultural autonomy (most notably the Maoris of New Zealand.)

Unfinished Empire is a balanced work which both the British and their former subject peoples can enjoy. It is highly scholarly and scrupulously referenced, but it is also a lively and entertaining read that does much to explain how a small island off the northwestern shores of Europe became a world power, and how the cpmsequences of that accomplishment still affects the world today.
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HASH(0x91e58e70) von 5 Sternen Empire: Growth and Decline 9. April 2013
Von Paul - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
John Darwin has presented a good work concerning the creation and demise of the British Empire.
This very readable account shows that this creation of an empire was certainly not a national scheme, but rather a result of the entrepot doctrine of trade, and kleptocracy in some parts of the world attracted those who looked for personal gain at the expense of the governed.

The German imperialist Frederick Nauman noted the unsystematic character of English Imperalism, especially their preference for working methods rather than rigid principles, along with an instinctive calm among their leading men, combined with an unshakable self-confidence.

There was success and failure along the way, most notably the loss of the American colonies over the reasonable need of England to generate some revenue through taxes to help pay for the long and expensive French and Indian War.
One observation was made that the most troublesome colonies were the ones occupied by white settlers. The British learned from the American experience and were successful in their efforts in Canada, even after resistance by both English and French speaking citizens. While the author did discuss both Boer Wars, it was in the second South African war that the British struggled against mobile Boer commandoes, where every farm could be used as a base. He goes on to state that only the ruthless clearing and concentration of the civilian community secured an ambigious victory in May 1902. What he does not elaborate on is the fact that the British, in this campaign, set up the first concentration camps, where women, children, and old men, died by the thousands through lack of nutrition and medical care. It is estimated that as many as 40,000 perished. There were even relief agencies set up in England in an attempt to stem the deaths of so many. The reader can also see Britain's Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt although this author goes very much over the top in comparing Britain's colonial experiences the equivalent of the Nazi terror, which is, essentially, rubbish.

While there was no single pattern of rule, and most of this was based on free trade and capitalism, it contributed to the growth of the empire as British "policy" was to accept wide local variations and leave much to the discretion of the men on the spot.

All of this was nurtured by the British navy and merchant marine, and it was all based on bringing wealth back to the island nation.

A large part of this story involves India. From 1757-1857, the British in India were a conquering force and the East India Compnay a garrison state, organized mainly for war. They were able to annex or defeat every significant regional power in the sub-continent, having more than 300,000 soldiers at the peak of their army. The British were successful in India because they inherited the method of taxing the land from the previous rulers, and the establishment of the Raj brought a certain order into their society.

I am a bit surprised that there was no mention of Afghanistan in the book. While this region offered little in the way of trade, it became an obsession with the British in the 1830s because of their fear of Russian movement into the area to threaten India. It was through the British East India Company that Shah Shuja, after three failed attempts to reclaim his throne as King of Afghanistan, was finally reinstated with the backing of an army that placed him back in Kabul in 1839. It was classic blunder by the British as they backed an unpopular man and eventually the tribes united and decimated the entire force with the exception of one man when they unwisely tried to leave during the winter, 1842. For more information on this, see The Dark Defile: Britain's Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842 as well as the more recent Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42.

By 1913, there were more than one hundred separate political units that owed allegiance to the British Crown.
By the end of the Great War, many of these alliances were no longer profitable and England could ill afford to maintain an army to keep order. This was especially true in the Middle East. See A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948for more information of this very expensive and unsuccessful venture by Britain into the area.

By the end of the second world war, the thing imploded and it was gone in a few years what had taken hundreds of years to build.

The author makes good points in this work, and I felt was fair to all in his rendering of this story.
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HASH(0x91e56c18) von 5 Sternen A Balanced Analysis 19. Juni 2013
Von Greg Polansky - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
John Darwin's 'Unfinished Empire' seeks to give a balanced analysis of Great Britain's empire, countering many modern historians whose works have often portrayed empire unflatteringly. In this relatively short and succinct book, Darwin chronologically lays out the growth and then the decline of the empire by looking at the four c's - colonization, converting, commerce, and civilization.

Beginning with sites of encounter, Darwin shows how the British empire arose from a need for trade, for open markets, and for a freedom to access those markets. Analyzing its ascent, Darwin shows that the empire was rather a laggard compared to the usual suspects - Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. But it quickly made up for lost time by winning wars, gaining colonies along the way through exploration, and sending out British people to settle certain lands. This part is the interesting one. Where the British encountered cultures that were established and were "superior" to its own, it would often have small economic zones. Think areas like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Gibraltar. In other areas where the British encountered not so strong cultures, such as in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, Britain established settlement colonies. Thinking of other works, namely Guns, Germs, and Steel, it would seem that where disease and death did not herald European colonization, settler societies were harder to establish. Also, it seems that the British settlers were more attracted to temperate climates.

Darwin shows that the empire did not always subjugate opponents through military power. Instead it often coopted elites who wished to further their own ends and were happy to be a part of an empire. And in one beautiful section Darwin takes down Edward Said's now quite dated Orientalism. The British Empire was not one where everyone was for the empire. Nor was it one where all the colonized peoples were against empire. Furthermore, the British Empire changed over time; it was not one monolithic entity but was rather an ad-hoc amalgamation of all sorts of territories. Noting that it was the battle of Trafalgar and Industrialization that really allowed for the British Empire to succeed during the 19th century, Darwin also notes that it was WWII that finally finished the ability and will of Britain to have an empire. It's this stretch of time that is explored in rich detail for much of the book.

The book is written lucidly and with enough information to be read by either historian or layman. I especially appreciate Darwin's attempts to treat empire fairly. Where it must be judged negatively he does. And where the empire was a positive, Darwin notes that too. Considering the modern love of democracy, it is important to realize that empires have been around for far longer and they were not all the same. Understanding how the British Empire worked helps understand global history better. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys well written history and wants to learn more about Britain's empire.
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