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Jan Morris's contribution to the history of the British Empire will only be truly measured as future generations turn to a series of books that will surely stand the test of time. This trilogy is a supreme example of how to marry the past with the present, to allow the triumphs and follies behind us to illuminate the way forward for those with eyes to read and independent minds to think. Perhaps sensing this, she writes, "... the post-imperial generation is passing by, and the mass of the British people know little of their lost Empire, and care still less."
And yet within these pages there is so much worth understanding. In Farewell the Trumpets there are great names in the foreground: T E Lawrence, Gandhi, Smuts and Churchill, politicians, statesmen and generals. Lesser mortals, too, for not the least of Morris's gifts is her ability to portray a person in an anecdote, evoke a mood with a poem, reawaken a moment in time with a musty cutting. There is ample humour for Morris loves a good joke. Most of the places of which she writes she has visited, many of the people she has met. And just once, the meticulous, even-handed historian gives way to the proud writer, and then only in a characteristically wry footnote: "The imperturbable Mufti settled after the war in Egypt - where I met him, I cannot resist recording, at the wedding of the King of Libya."
These three books represent a decade of travel, investigation, exploration and conversation. Five stars do them scant justice.
This trilogy should be the set text for all secondary school history teaching; it’s a brilliant account of the British Empire from start to finish which illuminates our nation’s place in the world today. No dry history book this, entirely entertaining and always informative. I can’t recommend it highly enough
Hugely readable and enjoyable. Wonderfully conveys the various attitudes of the English to their empire, and their attitudes to each other and to the colonised peoples. I learned much about the times my father lived through.
This is the third and final volume of Morris' trilogy charting the rise and decline of the British Empire. I stumbled across the first one in a garage sale and was so delighted that I ordered the other two. Rich in solid information, measured judgement and fascinating anecdote, these books are masterpieces of accessible popular history. F.M. Boyce, Victoria BC, Canada