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I had read Pax Britannica (3 volumes, very long) and enjoyed it many years ago. The abridgement is gripping, though it (understandably) focuses on the adventure stories, horrific incidents, and the most colourful of characters. In Britain we are largely ignorant of the astonishing sweep and scope of Empire, and of the way our achievements, delivering the fruits of enlightenment, Christianity and industrial revolution, shaped the modern world. Children are more likely to be taught of the evils of Empire ... Amritsar, famine in Bengal and so on ... but the substantial achievements beggar belief. It comes as a surprise to rediscover how much the Empire was in its early days a matter of private initiative, about which government was usually hostile. Only in this final pompous hey-day did Empire become a sort of state religion, with Victoria its goddess. A great and, unusually, affectionate look through the annals of a period that seems all but incredible now.
At times this trilogy seems long winded, but if you stick with it, you will be greatly rewarded. The vast array of information and detail is amazing. So much more I now know about the Empire it has been truly enlightening.
I just completed the final volume of James Morris' trilogy. The writing is superb. Although not as good as volume one (Heaven's Command), this book is well worth keeping. As usual; my only quibble is that there are no pictures in the Harcourt set that I have. That takes away a star.