I’m willing to bet there are hundreds – possibly even thousands – of more scholarly tomes on the subject of the British Empire. I’m afraid they’re not for me. Books packed with footnotes and quotes make reading them feel like homework; I always think I should be taking notes and getting ready for a test.
Jeremy Paxman’s Empire is terrifically readable, packed with great stories, and not so long you despair of ever reaching the end. (It’s a shade under 300 pages.) He hasn’t written a hatchet job on the empire, nor a hurrah for it. It seems to me to walk comfortably between the two viewpoints. Although, and at the risk of revealing myself as a pinko libtard Bremainer, I like his lament for a post-WWII Britain that never worked out how to go forward without an empire.
And it really is so very, very readable.