Pax Britannica, Book 3 – Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat by Jan Morris

If you’ve made it through the first two books of this series, you already know exactly what to expect. If you choose to start here because you’re more interested in the post-Victorian reversal of fortune, then it’s safe to say you could jump in and not really be lost. You’d miss out, but you wouldn’t be lost. As in the previous books, the history is presented here in terms of overarching themes and anecdotes that paint a human face on the events of the time period covered. Morris’ scholarship and storytelling is high caliber, and narrator Roy McMillan once again delivers as a knowledgeable yet personable guide.

Having once been a superpower, the decline of empire and disasters of war are painted vividly here. While such rise and fall is the cycle all great empires throughout history have faced, the character of the British people give this story a distinct flavor of its own. Where Victoria provided the face of the rise, it was Churchill who gave them the determination to see it through to the end, and the reader can expect him to cast a long shadow across the evolution of these years. It’s not just the fortunes or the politics of the British people that have reversed in this era; indeed, I feel perhaps that it’s their sense of pride. Before Victoria’s death, the pride was the innocent knowledge that they could do anything because they were untested in that era. After, especially in the years of the two world wars and beyond, it’s the knowledge that they have survived the impossible through sheer willpower. It’s perhaps for this reason this story continues to capture the imagination of the historically-minded. If you fit this description, this book’s for you.

4 stars