This is turning out to be a week of book posts and I am on the way to fulfilling this month’s reading task (self-prescribed), feels like being back at school proper!
I’ve read Empire: How Britain made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson before, bought it when it first came out in paperback around 8-9 years ago, it was one of the first popular history books I’d bought and I remember finding it hugely interesting at the time. In a way, it helped lead me to study history proper. Coming back to it now (it’s on the background reading list for an imperialism course I’m doing, hence I thought I should read it again), I can see why it was popular in the first place – Ferguson throws in some interesting characters from the history of empire, some mad, bad and dangerous to know, some genuinely fascinating, adds a few key events, some thoughts of other historians (from the period and 20th century), which he doesn’t always credit and makes it all into an enjoyable read. He does tend to fit in events and personalities to his own argument though and sometimes his arguments don’t show the whole picture – and this I’ve only realised on second reading, now that I am a bit more familiar with the subject. I couldn’t help thinking that he is a bit of a preening peacock. Still, it’s a pretty useful book regardless of whether you think empire was a good or bad thing. After I read it the first time, I did buy some of his other books (Colosus and the one about money) but have not read them, the preening peacock impression too strong in my mind… Maybe I will, one day but first, Michael Wood’s Conquistadors. Less than 300 pages that one, perhaps reading plan for November will work and that’s all very exciting.