How Britain Made the Modern World

Niall Ferguson

Preface by the author

The Folio Society edition of Empire features a new preface specially written by its author, acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson.


The difficulty with the achievements of empire is that they are much more likely to be taken for granted than the sins of empire.

Empire brilliantly unfolds the imperial story in all its splendours and its miseries, showing how a gang of buccaneers and gold-diggers planted the seed of the biggest empire in all history – and set the world on the road to modernity.  

Writer, broadcaster and historian Niall Ferguson draws on a wealth of sources to reveal the British Empire’s astonishing story, from modest beginnings through Victorian heyday to twentieth century swansong. Wresting power from its rivals by a combination of intimidation and imitation, this was the first age of globalisation – but globalisation with gunboats.

The Empire was dismantled not because it had oppressed subject peoples for centuries, but because it took up arms for just a few years against far more oppressive empires. It did the right thing, regardless of the cost.

Revealing how immigration (both voluntary and forced) turned the American and Australian continents white, how missionaries sought to ‘enlighten’ the dark continents of Africa and Asia, and how the East India Company edged into a sub-continent for trade but ended up creating a colony, Empire examines the preconceptions that surround the British Empire and balances the negative with concepts of modernity and progression. Above all, Empire explains how British imperialism rose, and why it fell.

A new preface specifically written for our edition by the author addresses the controversy unleashed by the book’s publication. The incisive text is complemented by newly researched contemporary images, including journal entries, maps, photographs and cartoons.

Production details

Bound in blocked cloth with a front-board inset-label printed letterpress, using artwork created by Peter Chasseaud

Set in Nocturne Serif

440 pages

Title page printed in 2 colours

32 pages of colour and black & white plates plus 9 maps

Printed endpapers

Plain slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

About Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller–von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He has written fifteen books, including The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild (1998), Empire (2003), The War of the World (2006), The Ascent of Money (2008), The Great Degeneration (2012) and Kissinger, 1923–1968: The Idealist (2015). His 2011 feature-length film Kissinger won the New York International Film Festival’s prize for best documentary. His PBS series The Ascent of Money won the International Emmy for best documentary. His many prizes and awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013). He writes a weekly column for the London Sunday Times and the Boston Globe.


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