By Simon Schama
'While Britain was once wasting an empire, it was once discovering itself...' The compelling commencing phrases to "The destiny of the Empire", set the tone and schedule for the ultimate level of Simon Schama's epic voyage round Britain, her humans and her prior. Spanning centuries, crossing the breadth of the empire and masking an enormous expanse of subject matters - from the beginning of feminism to the destiny of freedom - he explores the forces that formed British tradition and personality from 1776 to 2000. the tale opens at the eve of a bloody revolution, yet no longer a British one. The French Revolution by no means really crossed the Channel, notwithstanding its spirit of fiery defiance and Romantic idealism did, sparking off a around of radical revolts and reforms that collected momentum over the arriving century - from the Irish uprising to the Chartist Petition. the good query of the Victorian century was once how the world's first commercial society may perhaps come via its growing to be pains with out falling aside in social and political clash. may the desktop age wreck or improve the associations that held Britain jointly, from the family members to the farm? And if the British Empire helped to make Britain strong and wealthy, did it stay as much as its promise to aid the governed in addition to the rulers? in an effort to answering those questions, "The destiny of the Empire" makes stops at either celebrations, just like the nice Exhibition, and catastrophes, just like the Irish potato famine and the Indian Mutiny. Amidst the army and monetary shocks and traumas of the twentieth century, and during the voices of Churchill, Orwell and H. G. Wells, it asks the query that continues to be with us - is the sizeable weight of our historical past a blessing or a curse, a present or a millstone round the neck of our destiny? it's a great compelling epic, made extra so by means of the full of life storytelling and large daring characters on the center of the motion. yet along flamboyant heroes, like Nelson and Churchill, Schama recollects unsung heroines and nearly unknown enemies. along the grand principles, he exposes the grand illusions that price untold lives. Schama appears head on on the proof and asks, 'What went mistaken with the liberal dream?' The solutions emerge in "The destiny of the Empire", which unearths the dwelling beliefs of Britain's lengthy historical past, 'a historical past that tied jointly social justice with bloody-minded liberty'.
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Extra resources for A History of Britain: Fate of Empire 1776-2001 v. 3: The Fate of Empire 1776-2000
The British needed roughness because they had wallowed too long in vicious softness. Inspecting all those Roman ruins, they had doomed themselves to follow the notorious example of that empire’s decay. Long before they had lost America, the Jeremiahs said, Britons had lost themselves. Old British virtues had surrendered to modern British vices. Liberty had been perverted by patronage; justice blinded by the unforgiving glare of money; country innocence contaminated by city fashion. The ‘Ancient Constitution’ that had kept the British free had degenerated into what its critics called ‘Old Corruption’ or, more bestially, ‘The Thing’.
It is a vast compelling epic, made more so by the lively storytelling and big bold characters at the heart of the action. But alongside flamboyant heroes, like Nelson and Churchill, Schama recalls unsung heroines and virtually unknown enemies. Alongside the grand ideas, he exposes the grand illusions that cost untold lives. ’ The answers emerge in The Fate of the Empire, which reveals the living ideals of Britain’s long history, ‘a history that tied together social justice with bloody-minded liberty’.
But these frightening experiences were not just perversely organized as holidays in hell; they were a spa for the sensations. The agitation of the senses was meant to shock the visitor out of the jaded appetite and torpor that was eating away the national fibre. The crystal waters of Cumbria, Cymru and Caledonia would be the cure for the diseases, moral as well as metabolical, of empire. In the uplands, away from the noxious filth and polluted air of the metropolis, Britons would be able to breathe again.