Considering its diminutive size and location on the edge of continental Europe, it is perhaps surprising that Britain rose from such modest and unlikely beginnings to control the largest empire the world has ever seen. Exactly how this came to be, and what led to its demise, is explored in fantastic depth in this illuminating audio recording. It is itself an unabridged reading of Niall Ferguson’s extensive book Empire, a companion to the Channel Four TV series of the same name.
But the volume’s subtitle – ‘How Britain Made The Modern World’ – points to the fact that it covers more than simply the question of how the empire was formed. It also examines the considerable impact, for good and bad, the British Empire’s influence had on the entire world, past and present. It also asks what can be learned from the past, and how the history of Britain’s empire might inform a greater understanding of the influence of modern America, which Ferguson has controversially described as “an empire in denial”.
It’s a fascinating history lesson from one of Britain’s most influential historians, enlivened by the able reading of Sean Barrett, a seasoned veteran of both historical non-fiction and fiction audio books.