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A History of Britain: Fate of Empire 1776-2001 v. 3: The by Simon Schama

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By Simon Schama

'While Britain used to be wasting an empire, it was once discovering itself...' The compelling commencing phrases to "The destiny of the Empire", set the tone and schedule for the ultimate level of Simon Schama's epic voyage round Britain, her humans and her earlier. Spanning centuries, crossing the breadth of the empire and masking an unlimited expanse of themes - from the beginning 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 no longer a British one. The French Revolution by no means relatively crossed the Channel, even though its spirit of fiery defiance and Romantic idealism did, sparking off a around of radical revolts and reforms that collected momentum over the arriving 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 transforming into pains with no falling aside in social and political clash. could the computer age smash or enhance the associations that held Britain jointly, from the kin to the farm? And if the British Empire helped to make Britain good and wealthy, did it stay as much as its promise to aid the governed in addition to the rulers? with the intention 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 continues to be with us - is the huge weight of our historical past a blessing or a curse, a present or a millstone round the neck of our destiny? it's a monstrous compelling epic, made extra so by means of the energetic storytelling and large daring characters on the middle of the motion. yet along flamboyant heroes, like Nelson and Churchill, Schama remembers unsung heroines and almost unknown enemies. along the grand rules, he exposes the grand illusions that rate untold lives. Schama appears head on on the proof and asks, 'What went incorrect with the liberal dream?' The solutions emerge in "The destiny of the Empire", which unearths the residing beliefs of Britain's lengthy heritage, 'a background that tied jointly social justice with bloody-minded liberty'.

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Additional info for A History of Britain: Fate of Empire 1776-2001 v. 3: The Fate of Empire 1776-2000

Sample text

But it would all be worth it, Pennant and West implied, because a trip to the true Britain was not just a holiday; it was a tutorial in the recovery of national virtue. The British needed roughness because they had wallowed too long in vicious softness. Inspecting all those Roman ruins, they had doomed themselves to follow the notorious example of that empire’s decay. Long before they had lost America, the Jeremiahs said, Britons had lost themselves. Old British virtues had surrendered to modern British vices.

A few years after his ‘excursion’ into north Wales – and a year before James Boswell and Dr Johnson – he sailed through the Hebrides, taking with him Moses Griffith, his Welsh manservant and illustrator. There he beheld scenes that filled him, alternately, with melancholy and elation. The island people, like the shepherds of the Merionedd hills, were primitives, often dwelling in windowless hovels and surviving on oatmeal, milk and a little fish. Tens of thousands of them had been forced off their little farms in the 1760s and 1770s to make way for profitable herds of Blackface and Cheviot sheep.

In 1769, a year before Thicknesse produced his shocking image of starvation in Hertfordshire, Goldsmith published his long poem The Deserted Village, one of the greatest of all verse laments for the death of a dream hamlet – ‘sweet Auburn’. loveliest of the lawn, Thy sports are fled and all thy charms withdrawn; Amidst thy bowers, the tyrant’s hand is seen, And desolation saddens all thy green: One only master grasps the whole domain, And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain. Goldsmith’s couplets wander around the scenery of the dream, stopping at all the places and people that had made it a community.

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