It was once said that the sun never sets on the British Empire, and although that is no longer the case, this book explains how Britain was at one time the greatest imperial power in the world. This slim volume is deceiving, since it doesn't seem thick enough to explain the hundreds of years involved in the making of the British Empire. Despite its appearance, it contains a wealth of knowledge about Imperial Britain, including fascinating maps, photographs, and illustrations that emphasize Britain's former dominance on the world stage.
Even though Dalziel's text begins at 1500, he includes a timeline that begins in 1160 with Britain's expansion into Ireland. The first section deals with the early Empire, which, as Dalziel notes, began in 1497 when John Cabot made his voyage to Newfoundland. From there, the Empire continued expanding overseas, culminating in the colonization of India in 1763.
From that point, Dalziel starts the second section of the atlas, which concerns the Georgian Empire, another pivotal time in Britain's history as they acquired more territories after winning the Seven Years War, but lost territories as a result of the American Revolution.
The third section concerns the Victorian Era, which was considered a high point in British expansion and particularly a heyday in British India.
In Part IV, Dalziel explains how industrialism changed Britain's perception of itself and how it viewed expansion, as well as its role in shaping the modern world.
Finally, Part V explains decolonization in the 20th century, including the independence of Ireland and India, and ending with Hong Kong's separation from the British Commonwealth in 1997.
The Penguin Historical Atlas of the British Empire is an interesting and well-researched reference that includes over fifty maps, a table of Imperial territories, suggestions for further reading, and more than sixty illustrations and photographs. Written in a simple, non-academic format, this historical atlas is perfect for any Anglophile or history buff.