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Publisher's Summary

What were the forces that thrust the British Empire to its extraordinary position of greatness and then just as powerfully drove it into decline? And why is nearly every nation on earth, in one way or another, the consequence of the British Empire?
In these 36 lectures, Professor Allitt leads you through four centuries of British power, innovation, influence, and, ultimately, diminishment - four profound centuries that literally remade the world and bequeathed the complex global legacy that continues to shape your everyday life. This is a remarkable lecture series; one that will give you fresh insights into world history in a wide range of areas - political, economic, technological, social, and more. And it will also give you a comprehensive overview you won't find offered anywhere else - a context into which you can integrate new knowledge about this country, as well as understand the background of current events in so many other countries that were once part of Britain's empire, from Ireland to China, and in Africa and the Caribbean. Indeed, it seems fair to say that one cannot truly understand the most important aspects of world history without a firm grasp of the history of the British Empire. In giving you that grasp, these lectures draw on a vast range of critical events, riveting personalities, revealing anecdotes, and eloquent quotations.
Compelling, comprehensive, and astonishing in the force of its narrative power, each lecture will give you a refreshing new understanding of what made the British Empire both great in its achievements and vulnerable to its eventual downfall.
©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Mike on 04-26-14

Learn About Great Britain from a Great Briton!!!

Any additional comments?

This was a masterful survey of the British Empire. It is a lecture series from the Great Courses series. The professor is intelligent, well organized in his thoughts, and very interesting to listen to. He takes you on a sweeping survey of the British empire from its beginnings in late Medieval Europe to its dismantling after the Second World War and beyond.

What it Covers: The lectures are thematic with a generally chronological progression. In them you will hear about every major part of the empire and its story, including the American Colonies, Canada, the Caribbean, India, South Africa, other African ventures, the British presence in Egypt and the middle east, Ireland, British East Asia, as well as the colonization and development of Australia and New Zealand.

Some Highlights: The professor is thorough and engaging in his covering of the material. He is great at highlighting and bring out the different major personalities that were important to the British Empire such as Cecil Rhodes and Winston Churchill. Touches like this bring life and character to his overview. Likewise he also gives some mention of the arts, especially literature. I also think he was very fair in his approach to the morality of the British empire. He tries hard to be balanced and recognize both the blessings and the curses of British rule. Also, as an added treat, the last few of his lectures go on to talk about Britain in the modern era since the loss of its empire.

Some Limitations: As an overview, the professor covers everything in brief but few things in detail. If you are looking for a deep history on any one area, such as the history of British rule in a region, in depth political or military history, or an overview of British monarchs and government, you will be disappointed. But, if you are looking for a general but thorough overview you will be satisfied. There were some personalities, places, and events that were left out. For example, little was said about Britain's scattered island possessions, save some of the Caribbean islands and a brief mention of the Falklands, or British Guyana.

Overall this was a very enjoyable and worthwhile listen. Anyone who is interested in the topic will leave with a nice overview of the history of the British empire... and probably enjoy the ride! : )

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19 of 19 people found this review helpful


By Ron on 09-22-13

British imperial history for Americans

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would for someone interested in history

What did you like best about this story?

I liked that each of the lectures were generally around 30 minutes. Each lecture was well organized and presented in an easy to understand manner.

What does Professor Patrick N. Allitt bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He does bring to life many interesting topics, such as Britain's various colonial occupations of India, Australia, the US, Canada, Egypt and the Middle East, South Africa, West Indies. The more modern chapters were particularly compelling, particularly how Britain ultimately dissolved the empire in India/Pakistan and Israel/Jordan/Palestine/Egypt.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many, but the chapters most interesting were on Africa - Boer War, finding Dr. Livingston, Egypt.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Cameron on 07-07-14

I'm not yet finished but I am hooked

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely, and in fact I've already done so.

Like some others I know I unfortunately didn't opt to study history when I had the chance, and I've regretted it ever since as it’s left me with the question of 'where do I start first?' After all, it's difficult to read a book about any event in history without knowing what came before it, and so you end up on Wikipedia with 30-40 tabs open and your Amazon or Audible wish lists growing larger and larger as you try to create a literary timeline of what preceded your initial topic of interest. And then you're lost.

That's where this audio-book / lecture series comes in really handy as it provides you with enough detail on a great many events that you can feel more confident when making future choices in history books and topics to study. Professor Allitt achieves this by breaking down 4 centuries of the British Empire into 18 hours of surprisingly detailed listening. What seems rather daunting at first (four centuries of names, dates and countries to remember - some of which no longer go by the same names as they did then) is actually very manageable in their 30 minute segments. And it’s all presented in chronological order, which should be a given but you'd be surprised with some of the other Great Courses.

Additionally, Professor Allitt's voice suits audio-books as it’s certainly not dull or monotonous, nor is it tinny or nasally, which has again been a problem with some other lecturers in the Great Courses series. As a result it’s easy to stay focused and you don’t drift off wondering why Kermit knows so much about colonialism (I'd seriously recommend clicking the preview button before any purchase).

If like me you don't know where to start, try these lectures. They're simply excellent.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful


By michael frost on 02-17-17

A pleasure to listen to.

The fact that the professor's voice is so similar to Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge made listening all the more enjoyable.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Alison on 01-23-17

brilliant

very well presented. easy listening but at the same time very thought provoking. thoroughly recommended for anyone wanting to understand how the English speaking world came about.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful


By G on 12-22-17

Good, fair, interesting

A very interesting series of lectures covering the history of the British Empire in an honest, balanced fashion. It's very easy to look back with modern eyes and denounce what you think the empire was but these lectures worked hard to avoid that. A thorough, in-depth look at the empire's creation, expansion and eventual decline.

My two complaints are this: the lectures are from 2007 and are thus a little out of date, but this is only relevent when briefly discussing modern day ramifications of the empire, such as the rise of militant Islam in the West and Britain's relationship with the EU.
Secondly, the lecturer, though very informed of his topic and perfectly clear to understand, does occasionally flub a line and takes short breaks to collect his thoughts. These won't affect your learning at all, but I noticed them.

I would absolutely recommend these lectures. They're more important to understanding the world of today than many might expect.

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