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Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire [Paperback]

Simon Winchester
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 3 2004

Simon Winchester, struck by a sudden need to discover exactly what was left of the British Empire, set out across the globe to visit the far-flung islands that are all that remain of what once made Britain great. He traveled 100,000 miles back and forth, from Antarctica to the Caribbean, from the Mediterranean to the Far East, to capture a last glint of imperial glory.

His adventures in these distant and forgotten ends of the earth make compelling, often funny reading and tell a story most of us had thought was over: a tale of the last outposts in Britain's imperial career and those who keep the flag flying.

With a new introduction, this updated edition tells us what has happened to these extraordinary places while the author's been away.


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Product Description

About the Author

Simon Winchester was a geologist at Oxford and worked in Africa and on offshore oil rigs before becoming a full-time globe-trotting foreign correspondent and writer. He currently lives on a small farm in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, an apartment in New York's West Village and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Simon Winchester was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HM The Queen in 2006. He received the honor in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

From AudioFile

Simon Winchester travels to the far reaches of the British Empire. Winchester reads his own sometimes oddball tales. He tells of a cricket match on St. Helena in which a fielder falls off the edge and thus is "retired, dead." On Ascension Island, an island so small it was considered a ship--the H.M.S. ASCENSION--any baby born was considered born at sea. Winchester's nicely modulated voice is perfect for reading this history/travelogue. He is engaging while narrating the history and perpetually amused at the quirks of keeping the Empire alive no matter the discomfort. The production concludes with an interview in which Winchester discusses his delight at discovering that readers share his fascination with geology. A.B. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Like most long journeys into the unknown, this one began with an idea - an idea that was triggered by a strange story I read one wet Sunday afternoon in a recent early spring, on the front page of a London newspaper. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
In the early years of his career as a journalist, Simon Winchester hatched the rather ambitious idea of touring the globe to visit the far-flung remains of the rapidly dwindling and little known remnants of the British Empire. Although the sun still does not set on what little remains of these imperial holdings, Winchester recognized that this was a tenuous political situation unlikely to last for too many more years. He felt that there was a moving, fascinating and important story to be told of these vastly separated, profoundly isolated and mostly forgotten specks of land that reflected on Britain's somewhat tarnished past glories and conquests.

I'll admit this is a personal opinion (and you may well disagree) but I'd suggest that any fool with sufficient motivation and desire can complete the research and develop the information necessary to write a non-fiction book. But it is only a very special and exceptionally talented author who can write non-fiction in such a fashion as to turn that book into a compelling page-turner that reads like a novel and holds a reader's interest with the grip of the most exciting thrillers. Like Bill Bryson or Canada's Pierre Berton and Ken McGoogan, Simon Winchester is one of those authors with the ability to vault over that rather daunting bar.

Blending history, geography, biology, geology, sociology, linguistics and anthropology into a positively delicious cocktail, Winchester tells us the stories of such little known imperial tidbits as Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Pitcairn Island, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Ascension and BIOT (the British Indian Ocean Territory).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Liked it and may read it again Dec 22 2010
By C. J. Thompson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I ordered this book. I like Winchester's writing for the most part but he has occasionally disappointed me. There are a couple of subjects he has tackled where it appears apparent that had a thought that the topic in question might sell some copy and then just cobbled together something that ultimately came across as half-hearted and mediocre (The Fracture Zone: My Return To The Balkans, comes to mind). I half-expected that this title was going to prove to be in that category but, fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Although somewhat out of date (Hong Kong is most definitely not a relic of the Empire any longer, for example), this pleasant little book gives the reader a good, close look at some places that might otherwise be not much more obscure names on the globe. The story of how Winchester came to visit all the places he writes about (excepting Pitcairn Islands) is very engaging and his descriptions of the places and people he encounters makes for an entertaining read. I would have liked a few more pictures, and maybe some better maps, but I generally enjoyed this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outposts - Still Out There... Oct. 18 2005
Format:Paperback
Having visited some of the far-flung places mentioned in Outposts, I was really floored by Winchester's style of writing. He so manages to bring these remote islands alive and tells a very readable, factual yet humorous tale of the inhabitants of Britain's remaining colonies, their lives and the daily issues they face.
Brilliantly written and extremely captivating, even those without an apparent interest in the subject would be moved by this book. I think it would at least further their curiosity in these remote British patriots and their daily trials on their remote outcrop homes.
Harry Ritchie writes on a similar line in his book The Last Pink Bits, yet his research is noticeably less than Winchester's, by far. His tone at the start even appears one of mild annoyance at having to travel the world on the subject (surely his own idea?!) to the extent that I actually wonder why he bothered. New-found UK celebrity Ben Fogle also attempts a work entitled The Teatime Islands, and although a brave attempt at starting his writing career, I think he should stick to presenting daytime television.
Outposts is an extremely well-leafed book in my collection, which I keep revisiting. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those interested in travel, days of empire and UK world history. I particularly like the chapter on Ascension Island. Wonderful language....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Simon Winchester story May 20 2011
Format:Paperback
Simon Winchester again entertains and educates as he lovingly and nostalgically (and realistically) visits the scattered remains of the once mighty British Empire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Super Read! July 14 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
If you are interested in British colonies as they are today, now known as Overseas Territories or Dependencies, there is no better book than Outposts. I bought this while in Bermuda for beachreading, and blasted through it in 2 days. Winchester gives you a feel for the lives of the islanders, and just how much influence the British government has left over the way they govern and police themselves. Some of the "forgotten lands" he visited and discusses include St. Helena (of Napoleon fame), Tristan de Cunha (between Africa and South America), Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Gibraltar, Bermuda and all of the British West Indies. Humorous, insightful - just a great way to see and feel what remains of the Empire without actually going there if you can't afford it.
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