The influence of the British Empire is everywhere, from the very existence of the United Kingdom to the ethnic composition of our cities. It affects everything, from Prime Ministers’ decisions to send troops to war to the adventurers we admire. From the sports we think we’re good at to the architecture of our buildings; the way we travel to the way we trade; the hopeless losers we will on, and the food we hunger for, the empire is never very far away.
In this acute and witty analysis, Jeremy Paxman goes to the very heart of empire. As he describes the selection process for colonial officers (‘intended to weed out the cad, the feeble and the too clever’) the importance of sport, the sweating domestic life of the colonial officer’s wife (‘the challenge with cooking meat was “to grasp the fleeting moment between toughness and putrefaction when the joint may possibly prove eatable”‘) and the crazed end for General Gordon of Khartoum, Paxman brings brilliantly to life the tragedy and comedy of Empire and reveals its profound and lasting effect on our nation and ourselves.
What the critics say
‘Paxman is witty, incisive, acerbic and opinionated . . . In short, he carries the whole thing off with panache bordering on effrontery’ Piers Brendon, Sunday Times
‘Paxman is a magnificent historian, and Empire may be remembered as his finest work’ Independent on Sunday.
‘If you have to have a popular introduction to British imperial history, too, this book could be said to be better than many of the other possibilities.’ Bernard Porter, The Guardian.
Jeremy Paxman was born in Yorkshire and educated at Cambridge. He is an award-winning journalist who spent ten years reporting from overseas, notably for Panorama. He is the author of five books including The English. He is the presenter of Newsnight and University Challenge and has presented BBC documentaries on various subjects including Victorian art and Wilfred Owen.
Watch Paxman’s lecture at the University of Southampton