Recently, of course, ""imperialism"" has become a pejorative. But in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the morality of imperialism was not in question--Britons ruled the world and also felt that they were civilizing it. Morris confines himself to this period (the late 1890's), in a kind of historical travel book that ably captures the ""muddled grandeur"" of the Empire at its apogee. He focuses on the Diamond Jubilee when Victoria telegraphed her greetings to all her subjects--nearly a quarter of the world's population. From there, he ""tours"" the entire Empire describing its structure, officers, trade lines, moral and social orders. Morris, who has written superior travel reportage for quality magazines as well as several books (most recently, The Presence of Spain and Oxford) here maintains his characteristic excellence--the apt phrase, the combination of survey and thumbnail portraits, an educated Briton's ""impressionism."" He tries to ""recall what the Empire was, how it worked, what it looked like, and how the British themselves saw it."" He does.