By Simon Schama
'While Britain used to be wasting an empire, it used to be discovering itself...' The compelling starting phrases to "The destiny of the Empire", set the tone and schedule for the ultimate degree of Simon Schama's epic voyage round Britain, her humans and her earlier. Spanning centuries, crossing the breadth of the empire and overlaying an unlimited expanse of issues - from the start of feminism to the destiny of freedom - he explores the forces that formed British tradition and personality from 1776 to 2000. the tale opens at the eve of a bloody revolution, yet now not a British one. The French Revolution by no means fairly crossed the Channel, even though its spirit of fiery defiance and Romantic idealism did, sparking off a around of radical revolts and reforms that accumulated momentum over the arrival century - from the Irish uprising to the Chartist Petition. the nice query of the Victorian century used to be how the world's first commercial society may perhaps come via its starting to be pains with no falling aside in social and political clash. might the computing device age damage or advance the associations that held Britain jointly, from the relatives to the farm? And if the British Empire helped to make Britain solid and wealthy, did it reside as much as its promise to assist the governed in addition to the rulers? in order to answering those questions, "The destiny of the Empire" makes stops at either celebrations, just like the nice Exhibition, and catastrophes, just like the Irish potato famine and the Indian Mutiny. Amidst the army and fiscal shocks and traumas of the twentieth century, and during the voices of Churchill, Orwell and H. G. Wells, it asks the query that remains with us - is the titanic weight of our historical past a blessing or a curse, a present or a millstone round the neck of our destiny? it's a gigantic compelling epic, made extra so through the energetic storytelling and large daring characters on the center of the motion. yet along flamboyant heroes, like Nelson and Churchill, Schama recollects unsung heroines and almost unknown enemies. along the grand rules, he exposes the grand illusions that expense untold lives. Schama seems head on on the evidence and asks, 'What went unsuitable with the liberal dream?' The solutions emerge in "The destiny of the Empire", which finds the dwelling beliefs of Britain's lengthy heritage, 'a background that tied jointly social justice with bloody-minded liberty'.
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Extra info for A History of Britain: Fate of Empire 1776-2001 v. 3: The Fate of Empire 1776-2000
Many of them did find work in local, rural manufactures, shopkeeping, or newly learned work like shoemaking. But newcomers to these trades would be competing with the already established, and some were reduced to finding casual, seasonal labour as ditch-diggers. Young complained bitterly that in Yorkshire such men earning as much as three or four shillings a day ‘scarce ever work above three days a week but drink out the rest’ and that the price of their labour was pushing up wages so much that ‘labourers in winter [are] so saucy that they are forced to be almost bribed to thresh’.
They were also resolved, through literature, education, philanthropy and their own personal example, to raise an entirely new generation reclaimed from the cruelty and corruption of fashionable society. In the midst of modern Albion, they would re-create the kind of ancient British innocence they had seen hanging on (although reduced to poverty-stricken subsistence) in the remote rocky north and west. In fact, what seemed to the cultivated man of the town to be the most miserable aspect of those societies – their weather-beaten coarseness – was precisely the kind of life that had to be instilled into coming generations if Britain were to be saved from degeneracy.
As with the two previous volumes, this book gives space to many themes which could not be accommodated within the iron narrative discipline of the television hour. But even this does not mean there is any pretence at all to comprehensiveness. No one will be in any danger of confusing The Fate of Empire with a textbook. The last half of the 20th century is deliberately treated with essay-like breadth and looseness – partly, at least, because I have trouble treating any period contemporary with my own life as history at all (an illusion, no doubt, of the passing of years).
A History of Britain: Fate of Empire 1776-2001 v. 3: The Fate of Empire 1776-2000 by Simon Schama