The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781–1997 by Piers Brendon - review by Saul David

Saul David

Better Than The Romans

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781–1997


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It is hard to read this brilliant book and not agree with Edward Gibbon, its inspiration, who wrote: ‘The history of empires is the history of human misery.’ The reason, explains Piers Brendon, is that ‘the initial subjugation is invariably savage and the subsequent occupation is usually repressive. Imperial powers lack legitimacy and govern irresponsibly, relying on arms, diplomacy and propaganda’. 

Brendon’s title is a deliberate echo of Gibbon’s masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Not because he wishes to set himself up as a rival to Gibbon – no historian ‘in his senses’ would do that – but rather because the great man’s work

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