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From the bestselling author of The English comes Empire, Jeremy Paxman's history of the British Empire accompanied by a flagship 5-part BBC TV series, for readers of Simon Schama and Andrew Marr. 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. '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 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.
in April 1750 and within days had been offered a post as an overseer on one of the plantations. Unlike the slaves he supervised, Jamaica treated Thistlewood kindly and within a couple of decades this dull, brutal man had property of his own and had become a magistrate. His diaries make plain the extent to which the rape of slave women seems to have been commonplace. But what is most shocking is the malicious creativity involved in maintaining dominance. Within three months in 1756, for example,
Chaudhuri, English Historical Writings on the Indian Mutiny, p. 104. 92 ‘Not Rome, not’: Russell, My Diary in India, vol. I, p. 257. 92 ‘would surprise visitors’: Kincaid, British Social Life in India, p. 116. 93 ‘It is impossible’: Harris, A Lady’s Diary of the Siege of Lucknow, Written for the Perusal of Friends at Home, various extracts, pp. 1–86. 95 ‘The scene was’: Hibbert, The Great Mutiny, p. 341. 95 ‘Let us propose’: Ibid., p. 293. 96 ‘every tree and’: Quoted in Morris, Heaven’s
Indians, both civilians and sepoy soldiers of the East India Company army, burst through the cantonment, setting fire to buildings and looting weapons from the armouries. A few officers found their horses and rode out to confront the furious mob as it rampaged around, only to be hacked down or chased away. The pregnant wife of an infantryman was disembowelled by a rebel butcher, a patient sick with smallpox was set alight. By night-time much of the military compound was ablaze, about fifty men,
believed to have passed this way before and he wondered vaguely about the chances of a group of Africans arriving in canoes. Suddenly, shimmering through the heat haze, from around a bend upstream what should appear but a canoe. More extraordinary was what it contained – a white man in a white suit, holding a pink umbrella above his head. The American fired two rifle-shots into the air and was answered by two shots from the canoe. As the boat approached, the American drew up his porters in a line
scorching sun and biting insects, malaria and loneliness, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, meeting the man he was to replace – flaming drunk by nine in the morning because Furse’s system had made a mistake. Doorkeepers do not make policy and Sir Ralph Furse had stood like an especially superior doorkeeper to the Colonial Service. (He had become so well known that when he eventually retired there were fears that the supply of candidates would dry up: his successor – Furse’s own