British Empire—Book Summaries

    Imperial Britain     Canada and Australia     South Africa
    African Exploration     British India     Science and Industry
    Arts and Literature     The Great War

Imperial Britain

The Story of Nelson   by Edmund F. Sellar
Nelson was one of the most popular and romantic naval heroes of all history. He went to sea at an early age, but first made a name for himself at the Battle of St. Vincent, in 1797. From that time until his death at Trafalgar in 1805, he led the British navy in several daring and audacious sea-fights, including the Nile and Copenhagen. His victories gave Britain undisputed control of the seas at a time she was at great threat from an invasion by Napoleon.40 credits

The Story of Lord Roberts   by Edmund F. Sellar
Lord Frederick Roberts was the most eminent commander of the British Army in the late 19th century. As a young officer he fought to put down the Indian Mutiny, and spent most of his long career in India. He was involved in campaigns in Burma, Afghanistan, and Abyssinia during the hey-day of Imperial Britain. He was finally called out of retirement to lead the British against the Boers in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century. 39 credits

Struggle for Sea Power   by M. B. Synge
Book IV of the Story of the World series focuses on the age of world colonization, particularly during 18th century. The histories of European colonies in America, Australia, South Africa, and India are related, along with the ongoing wars between Britain and France for domination in Asia and North America. Also covered are the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the campaigns of Napoleon.94 credits

Growth of the British Empire   by M. B. Synge
Book V of the Story of the World Series focuses on the 19th century and is written from a British centric point of view. It covers the revolutions in South America and Mexico, the Boer War in South Africa, and the exploration of Central Africa, the Greek and Italian wars for independence, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the opening of trade with Japan and China, and the rebellion in India. 93 credits

Reign of Queen Victoria   by M. B. Synge
This book traces the history of the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901. Important domestic reforms of the Victorian era include restrictions on child labor, manhood suffrage, independence for Ireland, and free trade. Short histories of many of the diverse colonies of Britain are given, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. The most important wars of the British Empire, including the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, The Zulu and Boer Wars in South Africa, and the wars in Egypt and Sudan are also covered.90 credits

English History Stories - III   by Alfred J. Church
This is the third volume of Church's Stories from English History series. It covers 1647 to 1880 and includes stories of Cromwell, the Great Plague and Fire of London, the Battle of Londonderry, Queen Anne, Plassey, Quebec, the American Revolutionary War, Nelson and Trafalgar, Wellington and Waterloo, the reign of Victoria, and others. 67 credits

Days of Queen Victoria   by E. M. Tappan
This book tells the story of the life of Queen Victoria, a well-beloved woman who became queen at eighteen and for nearly 64 years wore the crown of Great Britain. In order to appeal to youngsters, the book focuses largely on the childhood of the princess. It relates her training for the monarchy and the exemplary way she executed her duties, while managing a household of nine children. The focus of this book stays on Victoria herself rather than on the politics of the Victorian age.101 credits

Life of Gladstone   by M. B. Synge
William Gladstone was one of the most important politicians during the 19th century. His Political career spanned over six decades and corresponded very closely to the reign of Queen Victoria. Although he started his career as a Tory, he eventually became a leader of the Liberal Party and was responsible for such reforms as the reduction in tariffs (free trade), the establishment of public education, and the extension of the voting franchise to all working men. Throughout his career he promoted the idea of political autonomy of Ireland, and stuck to his principles in spite of great setbacks. 66 credits

Florence Nightingale   by Laura Richards
This book tells the inspiring story of Florence Nightingale from her earliest days as privileged daughter of an English squire to her role as Angel of the Crimea. Even as a young girl her nursing talents were evident as she doctored her dolls and ministered to sickly animals. With the training she received at hospitals on the Continent, she was ready when the call to the Crimea came. Facing unspeakable filth and disorganization, she and her staff of nurses cared for thousands of sick and wounded soldiers, earning their undying gratitude. 51 credits

Our Island Story   by H. E. Marshall
Marshall's storybook of English history is an undeniable classic, popular with generations of British children. It takes a romantic view of English history, combining the most well-known stories from British history with legends and folklore. It begins with the legends of Albion and Brutus, and covers Roman Britain, the British Middle Ages, and the rise of England through the Hanoverian Kings. 230 credits

The Story of England   by S. B. Harding
This book, which can be used as a middle-school history of England, provides a thorough and succinct introduction to the history of the British Isles from the early Britons to the end of the Victorian era. Besides giving a chronological account of events, a brief explanation of some of the important industrial and social changes are discussed. The later chapters focus on the difficulties of administering an enormous empire spanning the entire globe.170 credits

Great Englishmen   by M. B. Synge
Sixteen short biographies of eminent, Englishmen are given. Although there are many important men of action portrayed in this volume, including Nelson, Alfred the Great, Clive, and the Black Prince, many men whose accomplishments were in the realm of culture are given also. Some of these include the Venerable Bede, Milton, Isaac Newton, William Caxton, George Stephenson, and others. 63 credits

Great Englishwomen   by M. B. Synge
Sixteen short biographies of eminent, but not overly famous Englishwomen are given. Included are several queens, but also a variety of women accomplished in cultural or professional fields, including Angelica Kaufman (an artist), Mary Somerville (a scientist), and Elizabeth Fry (a prison reformer), and many others. 52 credits

The Hanoverians   by C. J. B. Gaskoin
This book presents an excellent intermediate history of the rise of the British Empire under the Hanoverian Monarchs, from the first Hanoverian king to the first world war (1714 to 1911). The first five sections of the books give the chronological history under the most important Prime Ministers, including Walpole, the elder Pitt (Chatham), the Younger Pitt, Robert Peel, Gladstone and Disraeli. The later sections provide more detail about such developments as the industrial revolution, the reformed English Government, and the nations included in the British Empire. 126 credits

Historical Tales - English   by Charles Morris
This selection of stories from English history includes many well-known episodes, but also a variety of lesser known, but romantic events. Morris is an excellent writer and his stories are told with enough detail and dramatic flair to be of interest to an older student or adult. Although there are many familiar heroes, a good number are less well-known, such as Elfrida, Hereward, Arabella Stuart, and Bonnie Prince Charles.142 credits

Canada/Australia/New Zealand

The Story of Captain Cook   by John Lang
Captain James Cook is famous for his discoveries of New Zealand and Australia, but his contributions to British naval supremacy were many. He was the most outstanding captain of his age, and the care he took to keep his crews healthy eliminated the threat of scurvy, the great scourge of sailors. His meticulous charts, and attention to detail set a new standard in sea-faring and navigation. 34 credits

Peeps at History - Canada   by Beatrice Home
A concise, and wonderfully illustrated history of Canada. Although short and easily read, it covers all the major events in Canada, from the early settlements of Cartier and Champlain, to the Acadians, and the ongoing wars with the British, culminating in the fall of Quebec, to the early years of British dominion. An excellent introduction to Canadian History. 41 credits

Our Empire Story   by H. E. Marshall
This book provides a vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. It traces the development of the British colonies from the days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Included are stories of the five chief portions of the British Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. 203 credits

British India

The Story of Lord Clive   by John Lang
Robert Clive was a controversial, but extremely effective soldier, who is credited with gaining India for the British Empire. Though he started his career as a mere clerk for the East India Company, he was thrust into a series of adventures during which he showed extraordinary daring, and military genius. He made a great name for himself, and through a series of astounding victories, secured a foothold in several of the most important provinces of India.32 credits

Peeps at History - India   by Beatrice Home
This history of India begins well before era of British colonization, during the age of the invasion of Alexander the Great, which was the west's first contact with the east. For much of the next millennium various Moslem lords rules parts of northern India. Finally, in the eighteenth century, France and Britain contested for control of the Asian trade centered in India, and for the following two centuries, India was Britain's most important colony. 45 credits

The Adventures of Akbar   by F. A. Steel
Akbar the Great, who lived about the same time as Queen Elizabeth I. of England, was one of the most renowned emperors of the Mughal empire in India. This story, follows some of his adventures as a small boy, when under the protection of servants loyal to his parents, he had to flee across the mountains to escape from his families enemies. 81 credits

Our Empire Story   by H. E. Marshall
This book provides a vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. It traces the development of the British colonies from the days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Included are stories of the five chief portions of the British Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. 203 credits

India   by Victor Surridge
This book is part of the Romance of Empire series, written at the height of the British empire. It recounts many of the most exciting events in the history of India, from around the time Britain first established a trading post on the continent, in the 1600's, until the decades following the Indian Mutiny, in 1857. The treatment of Britain's involvement is in India is somewhat sympathetic, although many of the greatest blunders and questionable policies of the British Raj are owned up to squarely. 120 credits

Heroes of the Indian Mutiny   by Edward Gilliat
This book is not a comprehensive history of the Indian Mutiny, but rather, the life stories of many of the British heroes who were involved in the struggle. It is therefore best appreciated by someone already familiar with the course of events who is interested in learning more details of the battles and the background of the British presence in India prior to the mutiny.174 credits

The Story of the Guides   by F. Younghusband
The Guides were a British regiment formed mostly of native soldiers who patrolled the highlands of Northwest India and Afghanistan during the late 19th century. They were renowned for their skill as horsemen, fighters, and explorers. This book tells the story of the formation of the Guides and recounts several of their most famous battles.79 credits

South Africa

Native Fairy Tales   by Ethel McPherson
These native fairy tales were collected from the Zulu and Soweto tribes of South Africa and retold in a manner to make them attractive to English boys and girls. The book includes over twenty authentic African folk tales including The Daughter of the Sword, The Snake with Five Heads, and The Kingdoms of the Dead. The color illustrations are particularly outstanding. 53 credits

Our Empire Story   by H. E. Marshall
This book provides a vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. It traces the development of the British colonies from the days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Included are stories of the five chief portions of the British Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. 203 credits

Oom Paul's People   by Howard Hillegas
This book gives an excellent introduction to the situation in South Africa, immediately preceding the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The Boers were a small community of Dutch farmers that had lived in South Africa for over 200 years. In the early 19th century they migrated to a barren region known as the Transvaal in order to escape British control. But when an enormous reserve of gold was found on their land, conflicts with Britain again arose.86 credits

With the Boer Forces   by Howard Hillegas
Written by an American Journalist who accompanied the Boer army on several of its campaigns during the Anglo-Boer war, this book gives and excellent first person account of the actual operations and incidents of the war. It focuses entirely on the military operations involved, but gives a close up and personal account of the lives of the soldiers and leaders of the Boer rebellion against the imperial ambitions of Britain.93 credits

Cecil Rhodes   by Ian D. Colvin
Cecil Rhodes was called the Colossus of South Africa. He made enormous sums of money on South Africa's natural resources of diamonds and gold, but his real love was politics and he worked ceaselessly toward his vision of a Unified South Africa. Though always a controversial figure, he dedicated his entire life and fortune towards promoting what he considered the best aspects of British culture. 57 credits

South Africa   by Ian D. Colvin
This book is a comprehensive history of South Africa from the first exploration of Africa by the Portuguese to the Boer Wars. Twentieth century history not included, but the long struggle between Dutch and English settlers is covered in depth. As part of the Romance of Empire series, the book is helpful in understanding the pro-imperial point of view and the complexities of colonization.147 credits

African Exploration

The Story of H. M. Stanley   by Vautier Golding
H.M. Stanley was a journalist working as a foreign correspondent when he set off for the interior of Africa to find Livingstone. He then continued Livingstone's work of exploration, eventually leading the first European party to navigate the Congo River. Though Stanley admired Livingstone greatly, his temperament and purposes were entirely dissimilar to his patient and selfless predecessor. 32 credits

The Story of Livingstone   by Vautier Golding
This biography of Livingstone is a concise and easily read story of the remarkable life of the great African missionary and explorer, David Livingstone. He was born into a humble family in Scotland, but at an early age decided to work as a missionary. He spent his entire life in central Africa serving the natives, working against slavery and demonstrating the best aspects of civilization. 32 credits

The Story of General Gordon   by Jeanie Lang
General Charles Gordon was an extraordinarily principled officer during the height of the British Empire, who accepted several very challenging assignments, both in China, during the Tae-Ping Rebellion, and in Africa where he opposed the slavers, and tried to bring order and civilization to the Sudan. He was tragically killed during a siege of Khartoum, when the British forces failed to send a relief party to his aid.38 credits

West African Folk-Tales   by William H. Barker
This is a delightful collection of stories and fables from West Africa, collected by a missionary. Many stories feature the Spider-man Anansi, a clever but devious character who usually comes to a bad end. Most of the stories or fables have a clever moral, or tell how some aspect of the natural world came to be. 48 credits

Stories of the Gorilla Country   by Paul du Chaillu
This is the first of a series of children's books by an early explorer of equatorial Africa. The author set off alone as a young man to explore the interior of Africa, hunt big game, and investigate some of the stories he had heard about the natives. This account of his travel is packed with hair-raising adventures and exciting stories about encounters with African wildlife and native villagers. 120 credits

My Apingi Kingdom   by Paul du Chaillu
This is the fourth in a series of children's books by an early explorer of equatorial Africa. At the end of book three, the author has traveled hundreds of miles into the interior of Africa and has become "king" of an Apingi village. He continues his explorations and adventures until he runs so low on supplies he is obliged to return to the coast. The second part of the book recounts his voyage to Senegal and explorations of the Sahara. 101 credits

Country of the Dwarfs   by Paul du Chaillu
This is the fifth and final book in du Chaillu's African exploration series. The author returns to Africa after spending three years in the white man's country preparing for a second major expedition, during which he intends to cross the entire continent. This ambitious endeavor is beset by difficulties, and he is finally forced to abandon the mission. This book, possibly the most exciting of the five and certainly the most frightening, recounts his entire ill-fated second expedition. 116 credits

Wild Life Under the Equator   by Paul du Chaillu
This is the second of a series of children's books by an early explorer of equatorial Africa. In this volume, du Chaillu's hair-raising adventures with wild animals and unruly natives continue apace, but the authors spends several chapters discussing particularly interesting or curious animals native to equatorial Africa, including monkeys, leopards, birds, and many types of insects.. 90 credits

Lost in the Jungle   by Paul du Chaillu
This is the third of a series of children's books by an early explorer of equatorial Africa. The first two books were full of exciting stories about close encounters with gorillas, snakes and crocodiles and various other incidents, but did not give a chronological account of the author's journeys. This book, together with book four, present a comprehensive review of his first major expedition into the eastern jungle of Gabon and the Congo region. 111 credits

Land of the Golden Trade   by John Lang
This book covers the exploration of Africa from the earliest voyages of the ancient Phoenicians to about 1900. It's primary focus is the Ivory coast, and many of the stories are about the explorers, plunders, traders. slavers, and pirates who frequented Western Africa. There were few permanent European settlements in the area because of the difficult climate, so the historical stories are episodic rather than comprehensive. The history of the slave trade of particular interest. 122 credits

Science and Industry

Great Inventors   by Frank Bachman
Twelve stories of great inventions, grouped under inventions of steam and electric power, inventions of manufacture and production, and inventions of printing and communication. The final chapter introduces the famous inventors of the early twentieth century. The story of each invention is interwoven with that of the life of its inventor. Through these stories the reader learns how great things are brought about and how perseverance and hard work make for success.117 credits

War Inventions   by Charles Gibson
The author of this book is a talented science writer for children who is able to explain important scientific phenomena in easy to understand language. In this book he explains the evolution of guns, and explosives; the technology associated with battle ships, submarines, torpedoes and mines; various surveying instruments, and finally fighter aircraft. Although students of all ages are spellbound by these fascinating technical histories, the book is a favorite of middle school age boys in particular. 62 credits

Stories of Great Scientists   by Charles Gibson
This book provides a thoughtful account of the lives of more than a dozen of the most important scientists of the ancient world, and the modern era, up to the end of the 19th century. The author has 'taken all possible care to state only facts that are reliable, and, whenever possible, to dispel popular errors that have arisen' in the retelling of the lives of these scientists who include Roger Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Franklin, Copernicus, Priestly, Dalton, Herschel and many others. Especially interesting is his account of many of the ancient scientists from Pythagoras to Ptolemy. 135 credits

Twentieth Century Inventions   by Charles Gibson
Over twenty inventions from the early twentieth century are detailed in this volume. The author organizes the inventions by type, (telephonic, motive, gyroscopic, etc.) and explains the technical innovations. About half of the inventions are of permanent significance, but other have been superseded with new technology. The early twentieth century was a period of fantastic progress in a variety of technical areas. 72 credits

Lives of Great Scientists   by F. J. Rowbotham
The life stories of sixteen of the worlds most famous scientists are given, beginning with Francis Bacon, and ending with Madame Curie. Other scientist biographies include Galileo, Isaac Newton, Humphrey Davy, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, Lord Lister, and several others. 98 credits

Stories of the Great Scientists   by H. C. Wright
This book contains sixteen stories of some of the most important scientists in history, focusing mainly on the 18th and 19th centuries. The life stories of the scientist are given along with an explanation of the significance of their contributions. Featured scientists include Galileo, Kepler, Linnaeus, Rumford, Davy, Faraday, Lyell, Tyndall and Darwin.98 credits

Scientific Discoveries   by Charles Gibson
This book covers many of the most important scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century in such diverse fields as astronomy, geology, paleontology, biology, botany and medicine. The author is an exceptionally talented science writer and presents the theories of the late 19th century with great interest. 66 credits

Arts and Literature

Stories from Gulliver's Travels   by John Lang
This accessible and humorous retelling of Swift's classic Gulliver's Travels recounts the story of two of Gulliver's most famous voyages. In Lilliput, Gulliver is captured by midgets but he eventually wins their trust by helping them fight their enemies from the Island Blefuscu. He then travels to Brobdingnag, the land of the giants where he is kept as a pet by the king. Most of the political allusions from the original are above the heads of young students, but the story itself is highly entertaining. 36 credits

Ten Boys from Dickens   by K. D. Sweetser
This collection of stories, adapted for middle school age children, are taken from ten of Dickens most famous books. Each provides a character sketch of a well-known young character, and is intended to interest young people in further enjoyment of Dickens. Some of Dickens boy heroes include Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, Tommy Traddles, David Copperfield, Paul Dombey, and Pip. 102 credits

Boys and Girls from Thackeray   by K. D. Sweetser
Thackeray was one of the greatest novelists of Victorian era, and this book introduces eight of his most famous childhood characters by way of short anecdotes taken from his novels. Some of the famous childhood characters introduces in this collection include Henry Esmond, Becky Sharp, George Osborne, and Ethel Newcombe. 154 credits

English Literature    by H. E. Marshall
A terrific and accessible introduction to English literature by one of Britain's greatest authors of juvenile history. All of the major authors and literature of England are covered, from the Celtic ballads to the nineteenth century greats such as Dickens and Thackeray. Short examples of most of the literature is included, along with fascinating biographies.329 credits

The Great War

Little Book of the War   by E. M. Tappan
This book gives a clear and thorough description of the causes and course of the first world war. The complicated ambitions and grievances of the axis powers, namely Germany, Austria, and Turkey are first made clear. As the war unfolds and the fronts multiply; first in France and Eastern Europe, and then later, in Italy, Serbia, and Turkey, an excellent summary of all major operations are given, as well as an introduction to the new techniques of 'modern warfare'. 54 credits

Deeds of British Airmen   by Eric Wood
This book, written while the Great War was still in progress highlights some of the glorious achievements of early British aviators. In only two years time the airplane went from being a mere oddity to a crucial weapon, and the feats of many of the world's first flying aces are here recorded for posterity.86 credits

Heroic Deeds of the Great War   by D. A. Mackenzie
This book does not provide an overview of the Great War, but instead focuses on individual heroes and heroic events that occurred during the war. It provide brief bios of only a few of WWI leaders, including Kitchener, Joffre, and Jellico, but for the most part, tells soldiers stories, and anecdotes of personal interest. It was published in the year that the Great War came to a close so it tells the stories of the war with an immediate, rather than a reflective passion. 67 credits

Book of Famous Soldiers   by J. W. McSpadden
These short biographical sketches of twelve famous soldiers are unusual in that the focus entirely on the early years and formative experiences of the commanders, and end their narrative just as the well-known battle-field exploits commence. The author seeks to provide clues to character rather then rehash war stories, and does an excellent job of revealing the less-well-known side of Washington, Grant, Lee, Napoleon, Wellington, Kitchener, Joffre, Foch, Pershing, and several others. 90 credits

Boys' Book of Battles   by Chelsea Fraser
Eleven of the most important battles in American and European History are brought to life in this volume, which spends enough time giving interesting background and detailed information, to give each battle vital and lively interest. Particularly moving are three eye-witness accounts of the horrors of the Great War, at Verdun, Ypres, and Argonne. Other battles recounted include Saratoga, Yorktown, and Gettysburg in America, and Sedan, Austerlitz, and Waterloo in Europe. 140 credits

Heroes of the Great War   by G. A. Leask
This book tells the stories of several dozen men who won the Victoria Cross in the early years of the Great War. It was written while the war was still raging, and is very patriotic in tone, but the stories of the extreme acts of heroism done by these men are both harrowing and deeply moving. 82 credits

Gallipoli   by John Masefield
This classic homage to the heroes of Gallipoli, written by one of Britain's most eminent poets, tells the story of one of the worst military disasters in Britain's history. It is written from a sympathetic point of view by a man who had given up a secure University position to help with the war efforts on the Western Front. The author had first hand knowledge of the campaign and was essentially present as a war reporter. It was written only a year after the disastrous battle, while Britain was still embroiled the Great War and the wounds were still fresh. 65 credits

Story of the Great War   by Roland Usher
This book is written for the General reader and gives a very complete overview of the Great War It briefly explains the causes and sentiments of the war, along with a comprehensive overview of the battle strategies. The author observes that the vast scale of the war, and the fact that simultaneous battles occurred on various fronts makes a full comprehension of the war difficult, but then proceeds to provide an engaging, but thorough review. 144 credits

The World at War   by M. B. Synge
This is the last in Synge's Story of the World Series. It takes up the story of Europe around the turn of the 20th century, and discusses some the developments leading up to the Great War, especially regarding Germany and the British empire. It then follows the course of the war on all fronts, episode by episode. Finally, after America enters the war, a peace treaty is signed, and the map of Europe is redrawn, with great hope for future peace.101 credits