Reviews (personal)

No complaints; I really don’t feel sore about this, just slightly perplexed. But I’m wondering why (virtually) no-one has yet reviewed my British Imperial: What the Empire Wasn’t? It came out in October. I can’t fault the publisher, who made a really good job of the book, and – so far as I can judge – of the publicity. Yet all I’ve had so far are:, by Tristram Hunt, which blows hot and cold (fair enough); and, which is a real rave, but in an obscure internet journal.

Of course the book may not be very good, though obviously I think it is. It’s certainly an easy read, almost conversational in style. It’s intended for a general rather than a scholarly market. It has some good jokes. One problem may be that it doesn’t fit into either of the usual categories, for histories of the British Empire, of ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ – although I think it makes it plain how generally ‘anti’ I am. Instead it seeks to explain it, at what I think is a deeper and more subtle level, with some interesting new ideas; and to dispel some popular myths.

Perhaps people need their myths? Or perhaps my approach doesn’t make the book appear ‘sexy’ enough for reviews editors? Or as obviously controversial as, say, Niall Ferguson’s oeuvre? ( – And of course I’m not so well known outside academia as he is, or as Paxo: (

I’ve had flops before (Britannia’s Burden; Empire and Superempire; The Battle of the Styles), but also some widely and well reviewed successes. I think it must have something to do with the ways I pitch them. Or am I being impatient? Maybe the reviews will come later; and maybe I’ll wish they hadn’t, if they’re hostile.

In the meantime, here’s the Amazon link. (Though there’s not even an Amazon review!)

As I say, I’m not complaining about this. I don’t need and don’t think I necessarily deserve the accolades of the public, or even scholarly reviews to further my career. (Being retired, I have no ‘career’ left.) I’ll get very little money for it in any case. That’s not why authors like me write books. I would like the book read, and its ideas to seep into people’s understanding of British imperialism, simply because that understanding is currently – in my view – so distorted. That was my ‘mission’ from the start. But in the last resort, the ‘return’ an author gets from his or her books mainly lies in the sheer pleasure and intellectual challenge of writing them. I’d write even if I knew no-one was reading me. This blog is evidence of that.


On another matter – the junior doctors’ dispute: can one impose a contract? Literally, I mean. Isn’t a contract an agreement between two or more parties?


About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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