Tuesday, 28 February 2017

All the Countries We've Ever Invaded (and the few we've never got round to) by Stuart Laycock #bookreview

Book review: This book could have been called, "A short history of British invasion", but not in chronological order, not in geographical order, but alphabetically by country, including the countries we didn't invade. This approach means that there are repeated parts (where wars have crossed boundaries) and that no sooner are you getting into the flow of something than you're moved onto something else. The intro does make this clear, though. "This [book] isn't supposed to be an account of our invasions, rather it's intended to whet the readers' appetites to go in search of more information." This is also repeated throughout the book so the author recognises this failing. Perhaps a "suggested further reading" section should have been added to aid this?

Also, the book could have been made better with maps for each country alongside their text detailing the main places discussed, as not everyone's world knowledge is extensive. But there are world maps at the back at least, although not all countries are labeled on here, and some that are labeled are labeled wrongly, e.g. Malta is not Sicily, Zaire is the old name of DR Congo. These maps also would work better if they were interactive but this is a book.

The book does make you realise that the history Great Britain has is not normal and is perhaps something that we take for granted. "We've invaded, had some control over or fought conflicts in the territory of something like 171 out of 193 UN members... Sometimes, because we're used to it, we forget quite how unique out story is."

It has humour in it to help make the facts more digestible, which I appreciated, e.g. the Great Game - "They called it a game, but it was the kind of game where people ended up dead in large numbers rather than just, for instance, being given a stern word by the referee or getting sent off." But some of the humour is repeated with lots of references to amusing ship names used and how wars end up with multiple names.

Still, I am a bit of a history novice so perhaps I need more detailed books than this to get into the subject compared to others, and I read this cover-to-cover when it is probably best dipped into or done by areas (e.g. Africa), and indeed it does lend itself pretty well to that approach with its format. But overall it is ok for what it is doing and has given me an intro to the history of Britain's marauding past.

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