An Empire on the Edge

  • by Nick Bunker
  • Narrated by Robert Ian Mackenzie
  • 17 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The story of the American Revolution told from the unique perspective of British Parliament and the streets of London, rather than that of the Colonies. Here, Nick Bunker explores and illuminates the dramatic chain of events that led to the outbreak of the war-revealing a tale of muddle, mistakes, and misunderstandings by men in London that led to the Boston tea party and then to the decision to send redcoats into action against the minutemen. Charting the three years prior to the war during which the British regime in America was already collapsing, Bunker shows how a lethal combination of politics and personalities led to a war that should never have been fought. Revisiting the tea party from the point of view of British economics and drawing upon new and unpublished sources from Britain and the U.S., he argues that thanks to the colonialists' misunderstandings about the strength of British power, and London's inability to take American cries for freedom seriously, both were pushed beyond the point of compromise. The outcome? A war that few welcomed but all were powerless to stop.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

What does the Price of Tea in China or ...

... the fall of the Berlin Wall have to do with the American Revolution? Read and learn.

Maybe its a left brain/right brain thing, a touch of ADHD, or simply a liking for puzzles, but this is the kind of history I enjoy. I have enormous respect for historical biographers who fasten on their subject and track down all the small details of their lives, and have worked my way through a lot of their books (with Audible making it a bit easier than reading), but neither enjoy them or retain much afterwards.

On the other hand, I couldn't wait to get back to "Empire" as it skipped around throwing in everything from a nobleman who "looked like a lamb chop in parsley," the Gaspe Incident (giving Rhode Island more credit for the Revolution than we ever hear about in Boston), to the 1792 financial crisis, and much more. Even though I know how it all turned out, its a lot of fun seeing it put together, as the author says in one part, "like a jigsaw." And, by the way, I hardly ever comment on the readers, but this one is perfect for the subject.

If you try this book and like it, you might like Citizens of London, A World on Fire, and Conspiracy of Fools - different subjects, same style.
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- Patricia

Hard to put down

Occasionally I come across a book that is so interesting that I am torn between not wanting to stop listening and not wanting to finish and, in spite of the lackluster narration, this is such a book.

Mr Bunker has given us a book that, for the first time in my reading experience, describes how the American Revolution got started, but from the British perspective. Here we are told what motivated the British to take the stands that they did, the effect of speculation on both the East India Company and the price of tea, the rampant smuggling of tea in both the UK and the colonies, why the Tea Party was such an important event to the British, the internal divisions within all of the factions on the British side, the effect, or lack thereof, of such prominent people as William Pitt The Elder, Lord North, Edmund Burke, King George III and others and much else. While the cast of this book is mostly British it also covers the actions of some Americans who were central to the formation of both British and American policies - John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hutchinson and others. All of this takes place before the The Declaration of Independence and the start of the actual fighting, so much of it is not covered in any detail in both US History classes and in many books about the revolution.

There are some omissions. One thing that is not discussed is why the British Government never offered the colonies representation in Parliament since that was one of the main complaints within the colonies and the source of their resistance to the taxation and since it partly led to the revolution. Some books I have read of this period said that some of the leading revolutionary figures did not really want representation since it removed one of their main complaints, but I have never read anything in detail about why the British Government did not make the offer so as to remove that complaint. And, as the author points out, the idea of taxing the colonies without giving them representation was understood by the British Government and King George III to be a legitimate source of grievance.

What stands out most clearly in this book is the amount of ignorance both sides had of the other. The Americans petitioned King George III for a relief of actions which they saw as intolerable not realizing that even the King had no power to overturn these actions had he wanted to, and the British did not seem to understand how strongly the colonials felt that British action was destroying their freedoms. One of the appendices of this book describes the British Law concerning treason and why the British felt they had both a clear case of repeated treasonous acts by the colonials and no choice in what actions they had to take, even if they did not wish to do so.

All in all a very interesting and informative book. I found the narration by Robert Mackenzie to be both hesitant and uninspired. There are long pauses in the narration but parts are sufficiently fast that I found I could not speed it up to 1.25x without losing the ability to digest what is being said. The events being described were literally world-shaking, but Mr Mackenzie’s voice never seems to convey just how important the things being described are. So, excellent book, fair narration.
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- Mike From Mesa

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-23-2014
  • Publisher: Recorded Books