The Global Expansion of Britain
Date of publication: August 2012
Publisher: Allen Lane
John Darwin won the Wolfson History Prize for his book After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires. In Unfinished Empire he examines the enormous influence of the British Empire. It has shaped the world in countless ways: repopulating continents, carving out modern nations, imposing its own language, technology and values. For perhaps two centuries its existence, expansion and final collapse were the single largest determinant of historical events. Now that it has gone, it seems to us baffling that such a strange entity should ever have existed.
What was the dynamic that led to English-speakers standing on the shores of the Pacific, controlling the world's sea transport and creating a financial system that revolutionized the world's economies? John Darwin's provocative and richly enjoyable new book is an attempt to make us see anew how diverse, strange and in many ways chaotic the British Empire really was, controlled by a range of interests often at loggerheads with each other and as much driven on by others' weaknesses as by its own strength.
By understanding the different phases of imperial conquest, the wildly different types of colonist (with soldiers and farmers, merchants and government officials often barely on speaking terms), and what made the Empire ultimately collapse in ruins, Unfinished Empire is a surprising, original and often critical account of an extraordinary phenomenon.