WHAT WE ARE READING: nb86 Alastair Giles

Review published on September 23, 2015.

Alastair Giles on Ten Cities that Made an Empire by Tristram Hunt

Tristram is, surely, far too posh a name to be leader of the Labour Party (a race he dropped out of in June), but, that’s our loss as, judging by this fantastically readable work of history he’s a very intelligent and eloquent character. It’s an entertaining romp through 300 years of the rise and fall of the British Empire as seen through the development of key cities around the world affected by it.

You could dip in and out of it, picking up the cities you’re interested in, but, then you’d be missing the fascinating broad sweep of the book which nails the reasons and ramifications of ‘why there’ and ‘why then’ in each. Greed and the ‘respectable trade’ of slavery, have their place in the story, but, from Boston, through Cape Town, Hong Kong & Bombay, we also see the ambitious people driving the empire forward in a way not seen before. The tale is completed in Liverpool, a city that profited massively from empire, but, fell apart as we turned closer to Europe. Now it seeks inward investment from the old imperial Asian countries it once helped exploit. A highly ingenious & lively tale. Foreign Secretaries could be called Tristram, surely. We’d be very well served if he made it.

Ten Cities that Made an Empire by Tristram Hunt

Allen Lane hbk (5 Jun. 2014)

 

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