Hughes is a powerful writer, and he did a prodigious amount of research for this book. As noted by other reviewers, it is a great narrative and an enjoyable read. It is indeed history, of a sort, but it is far from a balanced view of the events it describes. Enjoy this book by all means, but don't think that you have a comprehensive or well-rounded understanding of the events that it describes. His opening chapters on England are astoundingly biased. Although amply supported by (selective) facts, he is clearly intent on telling a story and not portraying events. Two examples- he calls English criminal law in the late eighteenth century "judicial terrorism," and trots out numerous examples of what, today, one would view as horrifying. However, he notes in a third of a sentence that English law was considerably more "advanced" than that of the rest of Europe, and then dismisses this thought. Another typical ploy is shown when he compares ship tonnes per person during transportation to that of "a modern passenger liner," which is ludicrous. Unfortunately for him, a comparison to British (not English, but that's another argument for another day) Naval standards or American passenger standards of the day didn't support his point as well, so he went for the cheap thrill. Nothing wrong with that, on one hand, but people tend to view this book as scholarly, not polemical.