Read A History of Britain: The Fate Of Empire 1776-2000 by Simon Schama Online


Simon Schama’s dramatic, broad-ranging, and immensely readable epic history of Britain reaches its triumphant conclusion in this third and final volume, which stretches from the American Revolution to the present....

Title : A History of Britain: The Fate Of Empire 1776-2000
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780786868995
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 576 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A History of Britain: The Fate Of Empire 1776-2000 Reviews

  • Andrew Smith
    2019-03-19 11:52

    I thought this third volume of Simon Schama’s History of Britain would be the one I’d enjoy the most, after all I’d lived through a small part of it and surely I knew more about the more recent history of this sceptred isle than the years covered in the earlier volumes. But no, in truth I found this volume to be rather dull in comparison. Maybe it’s the way the author decided to tell the tale: by tracking the timeline through his focus on a small number of influential characters? Or perhaps it was the very fact that I already knew a good part of the story? Or could it be that the early volumes had just covered more colourful periods in our history? A bit of all three, I think.The first half of this book seemed to drag horribly as social changes, the rise of women’s rights movements and the evolution of the role of the Royal Family were explored largely through the writings of Wordsworth and other notable scribblers. In the second half, things livened up a bit as big chunks describing the reign of Queen Victoria and the political life of Winston Churchill dominated the text. I did like the way the author off-set Churchill’s period of influence with sections on George Orwell. The two were obviously politically miles apart, but they were both outspoken orators of uncomfortable truths. I think this was the section of the book that worked best. As I’ve found on numerous occasions when listening to these volumes, some key moments of history seem to have hitherto passed me by. For example, I’d previously known nothing of the Seige of Lucknow (1857) or the Great Famine in India (1876-78). I also was reminded of the enormous scale of the British Empire at it’s peak - in 1913 23% of the worlds population were under British rule. A staggering fact but one undermined by the knowledge that in achieving this level of control and influence the treatment of many native inhabitants was far from acceptable!As I came close to the end I began to notice how some sections were skimpy in the extreme. For example, WW1 was barely covered - although WW2 was granted more space – and all events after 1945 were virtually skipped over. The establishment of the Welfare State was touched on as were the Thatcher years (dismissively) but suddenly Shama was winding it all up with his reflections on where Britain goes next.The body of work comprised in these three volumes is staggering and I’ve gained a great deal from working through them. I highly recommend these books (and/or the BBC television series that accompanied their release) to anyone interested in exploring the history of this island.

  • Annie Smidt
    2019-03-19 10:52

    In the context of the entire history of Britain, I suppose the period 1776-2000 is, very much, about the "fate of empire" — building it up and then tearing it down — and Schama does spend a considerable amount of time on India in this book. But more than battles and occupations, it catalogs the building up and tearing down of different streams of British (mostly English) political and some forms of cultural thought. It's a tasting plate of various bits of each generation, in a vaguely though not entirely, chronological fashion, sometimes sampling writers (either of poetry, fiction or non-fiction, but always with a common interest in societal criticism), sometimes politicians and sometimes military or royal figures. Schama tells the story as if to an audience already familiar with the main events of English history. He assumes the reader knows their wars, their kings and queens, their prime ministers, technological advances and major calamities — and then, for the most part, he glosses these events with the spins given them by their literary contemporaries. He spends a lot of time on late 18th/early 19th century revolutionaries and the pastoral idealists many evolved into. He talks of Wollstonecraft and the "Rights of Women" and other writers and thinkers who carried related, early torches, pioneering human rights. He dallies with Queen Victoria and her dichotomies — Empress, politician-in-chief, subservient wife. He tells the story of the coming of the modern era largely through Winston Churchill, from the late 1890s though World War II (with a heaping side dish of Orwell). 1945 to 2000 is largely brushed over, but for a few interesting generalizations and insights into the rapid twists and turns of the evolution of the British "Welfare State" and privatization. His tone changes markedly once he starts talking about the era during which (presumably) he was alive and living through the history. It's a long book, but there is much he leaves out or treats only quickly… colonization outside of India, Northern Ireland in the 20th century, 19th century British Socialism (and its effects on the 20th century), Thatcher, the arts outside of literature, and the art of the 20th century…Granted I'm used to tellings that view history more through the lens of technological and artistic advancements (e.g., how industrial revolution era weaving technology lead to the computer and changed everything). That is a style I relate to more (yay, James Burke!), but this was an interesting book nonetheless. The 19th century artists and cultural critics who I think are so important, are barely mentioned (Ruskin gets a smidge of air time, William Morris and George Elliot are named-dropped only incidentally — though Julia Margaret Cameron does get a nice little section). I'm not really in deep enough with the politics and philosophers of the time and place to have much of an opinion outside what Schama tells me, so I can't really comment on his slant or his takeaways, beyond saying they are interesting and appear reasonably equitable, for the most part.

  • Ross
    2019-03-12 17:55

    I did not care for this final volume as much as for the first two. The author spent a lot of time on historical figures, such as poets and novelists, that were of little interest to me.At the same time he devoted no mention whatever to the work of the two most important Englishmen who ever lived, Newton and Charles Darwin, based on their contributions to science.He does a good job on Churchill who is probably the third most important Englishman in world history, so that is something at least. Newton and Darwin explained the world we live in and Churchill saved it.The bottom line here is the whole series is well worth reading.Read again July 2017. This time through I was especially struck by the preposterous nature of the British government starting with Queen Victoria when all role of any substance for the monarch and the house of lords was ended. Why be so silly as to retain this absolutely silly ceremonial role playing. They go through this meaningless act now for nothing but the tourist trade , or something.

  • Michael
    2019-03-12 10:58

    This is my favourite of all three of Schama's books on the history of Britain. The reason for its pole position is more one of personal preference, taste and interest rather than one of critical literary evaluation: I guess that I am more interested in modern history (and how it relates to current public policy in the United Kingdom), than in the older parts. As a footnote, this is NOT because I think the older, more far-away parts of history are less interesting, less true or less relevant, but because one can write much more precisely about modern history on account of the wealth of sources. As a result, it becomes hard to weed out what it is important and what is not important, and -- as always -- hard to read books that are unbiased. Therefore, one needs to read widely, and one can see by the impressive listing of primary and secondary sources in the back pages of the book that Schama has accomplished this. Schama lllustrates, paints the recent history of the country I live in like a painter; but rather than a realist painter, he is an impressionist one; blurring certain things while highlighting others in such great detail that would make some of Canaletto's paintings seem like grease stains. Schama at the very beginning lets us know that he finds it hard to write about things that have happened during his lifetime, and that indeed finds it hard to consider these things history. This becomes quite apparent when one realises that he has dedicated a mere 20-30 (please do not quote me on the exact number) pages on the post-1945 years -- the years he himself has been alive to see. I thought this a great pity, all the more since the book purports to cover the years up to the millenium, and was disappointed to see the last 50 years almost brushed over to finish the book. In spite of this blemish, it is a fantastic book. There are at least two chapters that are mainly about Churchill, the second one intently focussing on his reign as Prime Minister during the Second World War. In it, a small fragment of Schama's writing stood out to me; a tiny paragraph where the great historian does not show his detachedness, his dispassionta and genteel, mainly judge-free attitude; it is when Churchill is being discussed, and whether he did a good job leading Britain through WWII. Schama says that, whatever one might think about other aspects of his reign, one thing is for sure: that defying the Nazis "stopped Jews being deported from Wembley to Auschwitz. For some of us, this is not a trivial thing". For Schama, coming from a Romanian-Jewish family, it can't have been. And it should not be for us, either.

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-23 16:09

    At least I have come to the end of Simon Schama's three volume millenial history of Britain. I always suspected that I might enjoy the final volume more than the preceding two, perhaps because I was 'in it' as it were. However, reading it was like being on one of those theme park roller coasters which jerks you along, zooms, changes direction suddenly, goes slowly for reasons you don't understand, occasionally gives you grand views or unusual close-ups. I might have got on better with more chapters but perhaps the idea was to align with the TV series I have never seen. It was pretty clever the way things were linked together and I thought the marriage of looking at individual lives (Victoria, Orwell, Churchill, the Indian Viceroy who lolled in his chair like some neo-Roman but who actually had severe haemmorhoids) in some detail alongside grand affairs of state was carried off pretty well.I was glad I had read the earlier volumes as I did come away with more of a sense of why Britain is as she is (or why Schama thinks Britain is as Schama thinks she is anyway) Again the illustrations added to the book and of course, for this period, contemporary photographs could be used, sometimes to devastating effect - for example the starving Indians.

  • Jogle
    2019-03-16 16:03

    Simon Schama ends his narrative history of Britain with this third volume, ‘The Fate of Empire’, covering the era 1776 to the millennium. This final volume is in itself a five star work; ending an overall five star series.At one point Schama recounts the young Churchill reading Macaulay and describing this historian as: “The epitome of what a historian should be: an engaged citizen, a public teacher for the times, and not least, an unapologetic best-seller.” Hmm. Is this at all tongue in cheek describing at once Macaulay, the future Churchill and of course Schama himself?In this volume Schama is at his best recounting events from an oblique perspective, utilising throughout the British literary giants of the day to try to illustrate the growth of a distinct British identity as the island nation’s empire declines from its peak. With the American Independence and the French Revolution Britain had to follow or evolve and the internal conflict is illustrated through Coleridge and Wordsworth. The industrial revolution had left a changed workforce and a society that needed a voice, which Schama illustrates with a very personal account of Victoria leading in to the Edwardian suffragettes and growth of the labour movement using Shaw and H.G.Wells. Churchill provides enough literary reference of his own to cover two world wars but the extended reference to George Orwell and his seeming contradictions are added to brilliant effect to highlight the struggle between patriotic war effort and domestic socio-political upheaval.I finished this after watching Danny Boyle’s eccentric and quirky Olympic opening ceremony, and whilst I am not suggesting that Schama’s history is as off the wall as that, it made me reflect on how Schama also looks to describe an event using and often less used character. The seeds of a ‘British revolution’ and the growth of a conservationist conscience are combined in the works of Newcastle’s Thomas Bewick whose etchings hid a social comment whilst he debated the need for change in the back rooms of ‘The Blackie Boy’ pub - it’s still there, I’ve drank there often and had no idea. Women’s emancipation tied to the French Revolution are seen through Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley’s mother, and the Crimean War uses Mary Seacole rather than the more usual Florence Nightingale.To cover the whole of British history in under 2000 pages is always going to be difficult given that Britain once held such a prominent position in world events. The author has to be selective and concentrate on how each period shaped the next using a thematic style throughout. Schama achieves this using his background in art and is particularly effective when using literary characters in the later periods. As in his TV programs he can be occasionally irritating and his usually fluid style sometimes lapses into overly clever and confusing syntax. These are minor criticisms. If you want a broad-brush but effective introduction to this subject then I recommend.

  • Banuta
    2019-02-23 17:02

    Vol. 1 - quite dull. Learned that the Brits loved to slaughter each other.Vol. 2 - getting better. Found out how tough it is to create a democracy.Vol. 3 - This is Schamas at his best. Finally he is writing with aplomb, and I appreciate how he tries to make women a central part of the story as much as possible - given that usually history is written from the perspective of the male!

  • Lynne Stringer
    2019-03-04 17:00

    I found this, the third in the series, most enjoyable and engaging. I was very happy with the series as a whole and appreciated the wealth of information in its pages.

  • Richard Skellern
    2019-02-23 14:52

    Fantastically written, Schama focuses as much on society and culture as the political history of the era which gives it broader focus than efforts from Andrew Marr etc.

  • Graham Okely
    2019-02-23 11:48

    A sometimes negative version of history. But well read.

  • Jim Bowen
    2019-03-14 18:03

    This book is the third in a three book series which traces what happened to the Britain, the British, and the subsequent British Empire since history was first recorded.My grumble about the 2 previous books in the series were a bit... brief and breezy, which is something that the author acknowledges for this book, which covers the period between the time we lost the American Colonies to the year 2000.It wasn't a bad book, but it's strange, a lot of the empire was built post 1776 (which surprised me, I just assumed it had been about longer, which it wasn't with the exception of the Americas, West Indies, and our slave related issues in Africa). So this book covers the entirety of what most British people might call "Modern Britain", and even then, it's all build up and no action. The eventual reversion back to a small country was only pretty briefly covered (in his introduction, Schama said he felt weird writing about his life as history).The other thing that surprised me was how much of the book seemed to imply that the English thought of Wales, Scotland and Ireland as the basis of empire, rather than being equal partners, or regions of a greater entity, which is something I'd not thought of before reading this book.All in all, it's a good read, I just suspect it could have been better if it had been split in two books as long as this book.

  • Anthony
    2019-02-25 18:55

    Score: 353 pages into this book, and yet I feel as though hardly anything particularly astonishing has been presented to the reader here. If you are looking for a concise book about the history of Britain, I urge you not to read this book. Thus far, the first chapter has revealed itself as merely an essay on the relation between the American Revolution and French Revolution, and the Tory preoccupation with quelling the spread of the ideas found in Thomas Paine's 「Common Sense」and「The Rights of Man.」Page 123: A bit better, but only because the narrative has entered the Victorian age, and has basically become the biography of Queen Victoria.The section on the Raj was relatively interesting, but only when the narrative didn't wander and focus on insignificant details which the book, on the whole, tends to do.There was too much negligible information regarding the lives of both Winston Churchill and George Orwell. I don't particularly feel Orwell's accomplishments warranted the excessive pages allotted in a book called: 「A History of Britain.」I'll still read volume 1 and 2, for I hear those two are better than this third installment I've just completed.I recommend this book, but only if you already posses a general understanding of the span which it covers.

  • Giles Knight
    2019-03-20 19:03

    I purchased this book as a reference source for a college assignment and have found it both really useful and informative.Schama's third work in his trilogy; this book outlines changes in Britain from 1776 thus is largely about the industrial revolution and social reform. This is believed to be the best of the three part series and can easily be read without picking up the first two parts.Schama has his own unique way of telling things and as with all Historians, he has areas where you can see the writers opinion and personal interests in areas of history and antidotes.I would suggest if you were to read this, but also read a similar book by another author to vary your sources and eliminate bias but I would say that as a teacher.At times I found this book slightly hard going. My recommendation would be to read this if you have a love of this period.... But perhaps read Andrew Marr's similar piece of work which I found to be an easier and slightly more enjoyable first.

  • John Harder
    2019-02-26 13:08

    A History of Britain Volume 3 is the companion book to the television series (which is also excellent). I have absolutely no imagination, so this book has something I wish all history texts included – lot of pictures. I have never understood this. I have read monstrous histories that hardly include a photo. If you are going to blather on about Disraeli, show a picture of his mug. Have you ever seen a newspaper headline like “Buxom Beauty Arrested After Falling Into Fountain” – and then no photo. The publisher should be indicted, given a fail trial and hung.Volume 3 covers British History from 1776 to modern times. Naturally one volume covering 200+ years can not adequately cover a history this broad. It is a survey and one must pick and choose. In this case much time is spent on how Britain, the purported proponent of liberty stumbled into empire, managed to subjugate people for their own good and then eventually lost the empire. Very interesting.

  • Manuel António
    2019-02-26 10:47

    This third volume of Simon Schama's account of takes a different lead and pace from the two prior volumes, as it centers itself in the story and evolution of rights, liberties and equalities of the British people rather than the epic deeds that run parallelly with or concurrently to them. Therefore, for example, Queen Victoria or Mary Wollstonecraft revelant as they were in their time we only see them as characters of something greater, a transient realm, a transient empire. Having said this, the recount of the 20th century is profoundly interwoven with the lives of Winston Churchill and George Orwill. The main The account goes somewhat back and forth rather a straightforward chronology of dates and events, the feeling of evolution is much stronger, the perception of History as something truly organic.The lack of épopée can be mistaken with fastidiousnees, thus I recommend this last volume for the keener and more curious minds rather than to a wider audience.

  • martin
    2019-03-15 18:39

    I'll sum up my review of all three parts to his trilogy in this, the final volume. The great thing about British history is that there can be and are so many people of so many nationalities and viewpoints who have taken the trouble to research and write about it. This means that unlike many nations we are constantly able to reassess our role in history and see ourselves from both internal and external angles. Schama takes the history we learned in school and puts some meat on the bony dates and battles. He dispels many myths and shows us that far from being interested in Imperial glory, Britain was far more interested in security and money and getting more of each of them. He is happy to gently debunk all our myths and turn a mirror on ourselves. I think all countries should have histories like this - would do a lot to reduce some of the chauvinism and bigotry around the world

  • Aran
    2019-03-11 10:56

    A thoroughly decent overview of the time period in question, though for all scholastic purposes the chronicle stops at the Second World War: the period after is granted only a fleeting essay. Entertainingly contemporary in its insistence that history is constructed of histories: that the events of the past were predicated on ideologies which themselves depended on selective or subjective perspectives on that which came before. Hence, plenty of space is made for literature; Coleridge, Wells and Orwell are given equivalent space to Wollstonecraft, Victoria and Mill, and figures such as Disraeli and Churchill are approached through the lens of their literary influence as much as their personal biography. Entertaining and knowingly selective.

  • Lori
    2019-03-24 15:52

    Fascinating book. Schama's History focuses on what he deems most important and his profiles of Orwell and Churchill are essential reading in my opinion if one wants to understand the history of the 21st Century. I've read many books on Churchill and a few on Orwell. If one wants to get a vast understanding of both and why they matter, they need go no further than to read this his Third Volume in his series on "A History of Britain" Brilliant insightful minds like Churchill and Orwell don't exist now and that leadership and intellectual vacuum has never been more apparent than it is today.His DVD Series is certainly worth checking out also, especially the "Two Winstons" segment.

  • Lisa C
    2019-03-23 12:50

    An interesting take on a large portion of British history, this work focuses not on a truly chronological progression of the empire, but on various figures, many of who are not well known, meandering back and forth along the progression of time to describe both their place and their effect on history. Of particular note was the strong presence of women in the work, not merely the few known entities of the Victorian era, such as the Pankhursts and Florence Nightengale, but also many less-remembered names who nevertheless had a strong impact on their contemporaries and a role in shaping history.

  • Craig Tyler
    2019-02-25 18:53

    This is the most narratively obtuse of the trilogy. I think my expectations were set high by the first volume which I loved. It was narrative, and factual and enjoyable. The narrative in this volume follows certain historical figures within the time period and assumes you know a fair amount of history for the context. The period between 1776 and 2000. Unfortunately WW II was covered in less than a 100 pages with the focus figures being Churchill and George Orwell. I liked it but I could use more context.

  • Alice
    2019-03-22 12:59

    I really enjoyed this. First, on a shallow note, the book is gorgeous and has many beautiful reproductions of landscape & history paintings, portraits, and photographs. Secondly, the author Simon Schama picks just a few threads to focus on for his story of Britain so it's not all over the place (it's mainly about the history of social reform, the crap Britain repeatedly pulled in India and Ireland, and the ongoing battle between capitalism and socialism). My only complaint is that 1950-2000 is very much glossed over (he covers 50 years in about 15 pages!).

  • Piet
    2019-03-25 16:00

    Quite a read.I liked Schama's style. Also his interest in some literary greats like Wordsworth, Coleridge and Orwell.Churchill got a lot of space ( probably rightly so). Many people parade in this history.Too many to remember the essence from.Nevertheless a valuable read, food for thought and a guide to further understanding the many roads of people,s explorations, experiences, lessons to be learned, illusions to be lost.

  • Olethros
    2019-03-11 14:56

    -Repaso histórico muy peculiar.- Género. Ensayo.Lo que nos cuenta. Tercer libro de la serie del autor dedicado a la historia de Gran Bretaña (que no del Imperio Británico estrictamente hablando), que se ocupa del periodo entre 1776 y 2000.¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

  • Bevharts
    2019-03-20 17:00

    The third in Schama's History of Britain series was no less satisfying than the previous two. This series is a must for anyone interested in an intrtooductory overview of British History. I particularly enjoyed the insights into Churchill's and Orwell's biographies... funny to think of Winston Churchill's father comparing him, unfavorably, to his brother Jack ... 'now there's a boy who is going to be somebody' ;)

  • Jan
    2019-03-12 10:53

    A very strong finish to an impressive series. A very personal and in some ways idiosyncratic romp through the history of Britain. This volumen stands out for the interesting perspectives on womens liberation, Victoria, Chruchill and George Orwell with lives of the latter three elegantly used as guides thorugh the ups and downs of the people. Highly recommended.

  • Bruce
    2019-03-20 15:45

    the third volume is a near failure. what is said, is well said, but too much is not said. in Schama's universe, science is irrelevant but technology is triumphant. the problem is that this is entirely too much in the temporal near field and integration of detail is impossible. it would have been so for Churchill and it is for Schama.

  • JJ W
    2019-03-05 14:57

    friend of a friend brought this back from the UK and I picked it up over a succession of lounge-ings at his house. pretty good quick history read. revolves around things that transport you to another time: exhibitions, historic persons, and especially drew me in with the early 20th century details of H.G. Wells, Orwell, and Churchill.

  • Marks54
    2019-02-28 16:56

    This concluding volume covers the history of Britain from the US revolution to the present. As you might expect, it is a broad survey of themes but that is OK. I have read more detailed accounts. The section on the establishment of the Raj in India was the most interesting part of this book.

  • Magpie
    2019-03-02 17:50

    Beautifully written trilogy in a writing style that is warm, accessible and level headed. History is written by the victors and then re written by the analysts. The accompanying tv series was exceptional

  • Stephen Dawson
    2019-03-07 19:05

    The account of Britain's history concludes, as the subtitle says, with a focus on the fate of the Empire. But there is a good deal of focus on the peoples and social history of Britain too, which makes for quite a balanced and varied account.