An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker

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An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker

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Category: History
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Andy Heath
Reviewed by Andy Heath
Summary: 'An Empire on the Edge' looks at history on a big scale. The Boston Tea Party and the subsequent American War of Independence are analysed in depth, and what emerges is a masterful study of the human failings that can lead us to earth shattering events.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099552734

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The history that we are taught is centred on events. Often we know the dates, the central characters and the outcome. We seldom identify and study the causes. 'An Empire on the Edge' is history writ large and looks at the chain of events leading to the Boston Tea Party, and subsequent American War of Independence. What emerges is a catalogue of human failings and frailties that shaped the destiny of America and Britain in the eighteenth century. Many of the failings were avoidable but the accumulation and chain reaction they caused had a catastrophic effect on thousands of lives and has shaped the character of two nations ever since.

Nick Bunker has a beautiful writing style; couple this with his eye for detail and meticulous research and you have a winner. He presents his arguments powerfully and is not afraid to pass judgements as his commentary develops. His writing style is dynamic. He captures the key moments that shaped the events with an almost forensic analysis, but he weaves his findings into a narrative that is engaging and compelling. Trained as a journalist, he has a keen eye for a story and the courage to tell it the way he sees it. Much has been written about the American War of Independence. Some of it is good, much of it is bad. However, very little identifies the small details that shaped the situation on both sides of the Atlantic. Many books are one-sided affairs that create heroes and villains. The beauty of Nick Bunker's book is that he puts both sides through the microscope. Sometimes, in the face of historical events, it is easy to forget that people shape and drive them. Human flaws and failings, woven into the canvas, become invisible, lost in time; 'An Empire on the Edge' brings them back into the light.

I am a keen reader of history. However, it has to have a narrative and tell its story in a compelling way. 'An Empire on the Edge' does this spectacularly. It truly justifies its position as a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for History and winning the 2015 George Washington prize. It is a book that deserves its place in the canon of great historical works, but it is much more than a dry and dusty volume to sit on a shelf. It is a book to be consumed and enjoyed for the compelling story that it tells.

We also have a review of Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History by Nick Bunker.

If you enjoy An Empire on the Edge, you may also enjoy Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British by Jeremy Paxman , Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and Dynasties: Fortune and Misfortune in the World's Great Family Businesses by David Landes

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Buy An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker at


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