I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The legacy of the economic and political practices of the growth of the British Empire and the implemented of those practices in colonial cities are at the root of Tristram Hunt’s Cites of Empire. Instead of looking at the British Empire as either a good or bad “thing”, Hunt examines how it grew and the impact it has on our world today while not forgetting the motivations of those who implemented the policies in the first place.
Hunt examines 10 cities connected to the spread of Britain’s empire around the world, giving each city its own exclusive chapter. While each city is given its own history, Hunt shows how the British experiences in one city affected their decisions in others he was writing about. The history of a particular city is not the only thing covered with the individuals who impacted it; Hunt gives the reader a wonderful portrait of the cultural, social, and architectural developments along with those who promoted them.
While Hunt’s descriptive writing of the architectural are wonderful, the text would have been enhanced with illustrations of some kind of the building he was describing (thought as I was reading an advanced reader’s edition of the book there might be some in for sale edition). The maps at the opening of each chapter helped to place the buildings and other geographical issues into context if one got confused for any reason. Although Hunt’s insights into the society of the cities he writes about, at times the information he writes feels like a redux of previous cities’ and so slowed my reading as thought back on previous chapters.
Upon finishing Cities of Empire I had a better sense of the imperial history of British colonization, a topic in history that I have personally wanting to know more about. Although not perfect, Tristram Hunt’s book gives the reader a history of the British Empire and its legacy in the 21st Century without judging or defending as good or evil. I whole recommend this book to those interested in the spread of British culture around the world.