Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the British Empire

Brendan Simms, Author . Basic $39.95 (802p) ISBN 978-0-465-01332-6

Simms, of Cambridge University, is among the finest of a new generation of British historians. In his most ambitious work to date, he addresses arguably the fundamental question of British identity: is it European or insular? Simms lines up solidly with the Europeanists, but provides a global twist. He interprets Britain's greatness and survival as a function of maintaining a buffer zone on the continent. The Low Countries and the Holy Roman Empire had to remain in friendly hands. In the first half of the 18th century, Britain, as a burgeoning empire, sought allies with economic resources and, when necessary, with armed force. The result was “three victories”—against Spain, Austria and in the Seven Years' War—that established a balance of power. Yet Britain's government and people began to believe the sea and the Royal Navy alone guaranteed Britain's security. Neglecting and alienating its continental neighbors led to the expansion of a debate with the North American colonies into a global war. Britain suffered disaster, but learned a lesson as well, Simms shows, maintaining in succeeding centuries the continental commitment that sustained its existence. Illus., maps. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 12/01/2008
Paperback - 832 pages - 978-0-14-028984-8
Hardcover - 801 pages - 978-0-7139-9426-1
Ebook - 833 pages - 978-0-7867-2722-3
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