Friday, July 20, 2012


I just finished reading Jeremy Paxman's Empire, which rather than a tale of the presenter of Newsnight's imperial command, is an account of the British Empire's rise and fall.

There are occasional details that don't ring true (such as the repetition of Singapore falling to the Japanese because the batteries on Sentosa Island could only fire out to sea) but generally it is a jolly good read, leaving the reader to draw parallels between 19th century British campaigns and 21st century misadventure. It's also quite depressing if you're British, as Paxman takes a hatchet to much of what Britain might be seen to be.

(That said, Paxman dents white male ideas of what makes Britain great; perhaps 'playing the game' and some strange idea of what being a gentleman entails are less meaningful once you leave that etiolated demographic.) By the end, you begin to feel Britain might have no role to play in anything ever, just a banana republic in the North Sea, without a suitable climate to grow bananas. A country without an empire, hamstrung by clinging on to memories of when it did have one. So, not the most cheery of books.

Nor very cheery if you're Indian and reading about Amritsar either, I suppose.

However, you need to take criticism and Empire is a book I wish I'd read when I was at school. If only I'd had a time machine.

No time machine tonight. Just lots of high class booze. That'll do, surely?


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