Piers Brendon

The Sun Does Set

Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918–1968


Cambridge University Press 464pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

This magisterial volume, a sequel to Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815–1914 (1976), is the distillation of a lifetime’s learning and teaching about the British Empire. The earlier work, Ronald Hyam explains, was a kind of ‘user’s handbook’. The present study, based on mountains of documentary evidence, concentrates more specifically on the politics of decolonisation. Such a rigorous scholarly enterprise would have every excuse to be dry. But as became instantly apparent to his Cambridge pupils (of whom, to declare an interest, I was one), Hyam is entertaining, incisive and sardonic to the point of ribaldry.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,
    • 'Keynes predicted that future generations would enjoy such an improved standard of living that they might work just… ,
    • 'Various dislocations ... emerge, iceberg-like, out of a troubled sea of unconscious motivation and confront Eisenb… ,
    • Today is the first today of the – they've got some excellent events coming up over the next two weeks.… ,