Today I finished the third volume of Jan Morris's historical Pax Britannica trilogy, Farewell the Trumpets. It took me longer to read them than it took her to write them. I read the central volume, The Climax of Empire, (1968), and the first to be published, back in the '90's. I then bought the 1st and 3rd volumes, Heaven's Command, (1973), and Farewell the Trumpets, (1978), to read later.
If you are, like me, a white man of a certain age, you may have enjoyed films like The Man Who Would Be King, or Zulu, and at the same time have been troubled by their unabashed triumphalism. Morris's trilogy is an attempt to sort out the meaning of the British Empire, good and bad. She concludes that, in the end, the Empire was a force for good, and I agree.
Think what a lot of trouble we'd have been spared if the American Revolution had not happened. Slavery would have ended without a shot being fired, and we would have social services to match the rest of the civilized world.
There is a good interview of Morris from 1997 in the Paris Review.
1 month ago