History may not be exactly bunk, or even just sound and fury, but it is certainly a fearful mess, and no great historical progress has been more jumbled, muddled, ambiguous, equivocal, contradictory or confused than the rise and fall of the British Empire, from its piratical beginnings to its somewhat sidelong end. You can make art out of it; you can philosophise and theorise over it; but you can never really make of it a straightforward, chronological one-volume narrative.
Professor Niall Ferguson has had a damned good try in this work, and in my judgement has succeeded better than anyone else. This is partly because he has been obliged to. The book is an adjunct to a forthcoming major Channel Four series, and nothing sharpens the creative mind better