STAR OF EMPIRE: Study of Britain as a World Power-1405-1945 by William B. Willcox

STAR OF EMPIRE: Study of Britain as a World Power-1405-1945

Email this review


This is extraordinary in its unhurried sense of the dramatic, as well as the social values of history, in a single volume survey of Britain's three phases, as empire builder. With the accession of the Tudors, the groping towards a place in the international scene became a positive factor; the 18th century saw Britain in a surging forward role as a world power; the 20th century in its middle years sees the settling of Britain's imperial sum, with her reaffirmation of a positive part in the world picture. It is an extraordinarily objective study for an American historian to have made, for- as I read- my one reserve for the American market was what seemed a very British interpretation of Anglo-American relations;- the colonial phase, the American Revolution and the ""regrettable but incidental episode"" of the War of 1812, the almost grudging explanation of America's entry into World War I, the unease of Britain as the U.S.A. forged ahead as a naval power, America's involvement in World War II -- again ""the logic of self defense"" -- and finally the anomalous position Britain is in as a hopelessly restricted debtor nation run by a Labor government. In final appraisal this very objectivity and balance and proportion is basic to the value of the book as history. The focus on Britain's rising star of empire is kept throughout, as the Elizabethan period makes her world conscious, the pressures of commercial and colonial expansion in the century following bring her into the limelight, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic eras, following on the heels of her great set-back as a Colonial administrator, the crisis in India, the liberal advance at home and abroad, bring her into the concert of Europe, and the guiding star of the British commonwealth of nations. Conflict was ahead- in Egypt, in the Near East, in Ireland, in South Africa -- but by the time Germany was challenging her leadership, Britain was ready for the challenge. In the long reach the two World Wars and the years between are but another chapter, but they left Britain a declining empire, playing today her part in the still waging struggle for Europe. The political crises within the homeland are given full play as catalysts in the history of empire, and again Willcox writes more as a Britisher than an American. His book has pace and color and zest; it makes excellent reading; it provides the layman with a first rate single volume history of England.

Publisher: Knopf