The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire
By H. W. Crocker III
Published by Blackstone Audio
Read by Ray Porter
Well, here’s a book that was not what I expected. With that title, I expected a humorous and irreverent discussion of British history. I’m not even sure I can call it a history although I suppose that’s the section of your local bookstore that it might be found in (assuming you still have a local bookstore. If not, try a library. What this feels most like is a Cliff Notes summary of a real history book. Most of the descriptions are a bit shallow and there is not a lot of detail, even in chapters that supposedly give more details on stuff in previous ones. The whole discussion is just so cursory, even though I will admit that some of it was new to me.
Basically, Crocker introduces us to the concept of the British Empire and then goes on to describe how it existed in various parts of the world and some of the personalities that made it was it was. But if any poor high school student stumbles across this and tries to use it as source material is likely to get sent back to the library to redo their term paper from scratch.
Is it scholarly? Well, Crocker appears to have read a lot of books o0nt he subject, apparently most of them were written in the 1990’s although a few came out of the 1970’s and 80’s. How do I know? Because every time he quoted an historic personality he attributed the book in which he found it. Strangely, what he does not bother to attribute those quotes to are the circumstances in which they were made; on the field? In an interview? In personal memoires? Who knows? What it all means is he could not be bothered to do and primary research but, instead has relied on what other authors, who may or may not have worked with primary materials themselves, have said about the subject. Now that’s lazy research!
I also know which books he bothered to read because every so often he lists “Books that anti-colonialists (or anti-imperialists) don’t want you to read. He’s very wrong on that, of course. Anti-colonialists (his code for “Liberals”) do want you to read them. It is only through reading through all possible material on a subject that you can make an informed decision for yourself.
“So why is this “Politically Incorrect?” Well, possibly because he has a series of titles that start with “The Politically Incorrect…” but more likely this is because in “Conservative” code and “Politically Incorrect” means “Something those stupid and ill-informed Liberals will not understand and will disagree with because they are always wrong but we are always right.” It’s a bit arrogant, but arrogance is not really a political trait; you can find it in Conservatives and Liberals in equal proportions.
So, in all, the book is an argument in favor of Imperialism. In fact, Crocker repeatedly tells us that the American founding fathers all though building an empire was a good thing and show how many American attitudes actually came from Great Britain. Then again, I think Crocker is American so he repeatedly forgets this is supposed to be a book about British Imperialism. Perhaps it would have been better had Crocker been British too because he is either seriously uninformed on his subject or else couldn’t care less about the facts and just cherry-picked out the parts that supported his own beliefs.
Now to try being fair, there were sections that I learned from. I certainly had not heard of all the personages Crocker shoes to give whole chapters to, but the book is not chronologically organized by a long shot and skips and jumps all up and down the time line. Instead he had attempted to discuss his subject based on geographic location but by doing so the text become repetitious at times (frequently word-for-word) as people who might have been influential in India turn up in Africa or the Middle East. Several times I found myself wondering if I had a bad copy because I would think, ‘Wait. Didn’t he say the same thing a chapter or two ago?”
So, if you’re a pro-imperialist conservative, you might like this book because it will affirm your beliefs. That is, unless you are also the sort of conservative who actually thinks and make decision for him or herself, in which case you will likely think, “Well, I agree with him, but, damn! I could have said that better.” He is right that liberals will not like it. Those who parrot the party line just won’t like it because they disagree with what is said and those, who like the thoughtful conservative, are capable of evaluating the facts for themselves will cringe at the poor scholarship and poorly thought out arguments.
This would have been much better had “Politically Incorrect” meant It’s a parody. Sadly, if this is a parody, it was not an intentional one.
For the most part Ray Porter reads the book well, but he had a really bad habit of slipping into a bad Hollywood version of a Victorian gentleman’s accent when reading the quotes… except for when he reads something Winston Churchill said. In that case it’s a bad impersonation of Churchill. It’s kind of a shame because, except for those annoying lapses, he really does not read badly at all. A history probably should not be read dramatically as this was, but then and I said at the start; this was not really a history. Read or listen to at your own peril.