The author sets out to describe the functioning of the imperial system and its gradual dissolution. The first aim is pursued with a collection of details about the colonial civil services, with inevitable quotes from Kipling. The second aim produces an outline of changes in the political status of the subject nations. Cross has a good many assertions wrong, e.g. that the British upper class at this time were essentially landowners, and that (Mideastern) oil was unimportant to Britain until after World War II. His generalizations are inaccurate and his interpretations ineffable. From the fact that it would have taken a vast army to hold the colonies by force, he concludes that ""British rule rested primarily on consent."" At the end of the book he claims that it can be shown that preserving the Empire ""was never the first priority of British policy."" He neglects economic factors to a degree which makes the book hard to take seriously. Apart from a mysterious ""European greed"" in Africa and a British passion for chocolate, he attributes the Empire to ""verve"" and ""magnetic urges,"" expressing his surprise that it ever arose or persisted. The imperial significance of the outcome of World War I, the Labour Party's stances before 1946, the effects on the colonial populations, exemplify the range of questions never even raised here.