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The Best Books About The British Empire

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“What are the best books about The British Empire?” We looked at 200 of the top books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 19 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best British Empire” book lists, are ranked below by how many times they appear. The remaining 150+ titles, as well as the lists we used, are in alphabetical order on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 19 British Empire Books



19 .) Farewell The Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat by James Morris

Lists It Appears On:

  • Library Thing
  • Goodreads 2

This concluding volume brings readers up to the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

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18 .) Flashman (The Flashman Papers, #1) by George MacDonald Fraser

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 2
  • Goodreads

“Three of George MacDonald Fraser’s incomparable and hilarious novels featuring the lovable rogue, soldier, cheat, and coward: Harry Paget Flashman.

Praised by everyone from John Updike to Jane Smiley, Fraser was an acknowledged master of comedy and satire, an unrivaled storyteller, whose craft was matched only by his impeccable historical research. And his greatest creation was, of course, Flashman. The novels collected here find our hero in the midst of his usual swashbuckling adventures of derring-do: fleeing adversaries in the First Anglo-Afghan War; meeting and nearly deceiving a young Abraham Lincoln in America; alternately impersonating a native Indian cavalry recruit and wooing women in India; and managing, whatever the circumstances, to keep his hero’s reputation unsullied.

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17 .) Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress by James Morris

Lists It Appears On:

  • Library Thing
  • Goodreads 2

The opening volume of Morris’s “Pax Britannica Trilogy,” this richly detailed work traces the rise of the British Empire, from the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837 to the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

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16 .) Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Goodreads 2

This novel tells the story of Kimball O’ Hara (Kim), who is the orphaned son of a soldier in the Irish regiment stationed in India during the British Raj. It describes Kim’s life and adventures from street vagabond, to his adoption by his father’s regiment and recruitment into espionage.

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15 .) Old Filth by Jane Gardam

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Goodreads 2

“Book One in Jane Gardam’s Old Filth Trilogy

Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.

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14 .) Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire by Simon Winchester

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing

“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.”

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13 .) Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Goodreads 2

“When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.

Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.

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12 .) Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Wikipedia

Jeff Shaara dazzled readers with his bestselling novels Gods and Generals, The Last Full Measure, and Gone for Soldiers. Now the acclaimed author who illuminated the Civil War and the Mexican-American War brilliantly brings to life the American Revolution, creating a superb saga of the men who helped to forge the destiny of a nation.

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11 .) The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing

In the first half of the nineteenth century, only a small handful of Westerners had ventured into the regions watered by the Nile River on its long journey from Lake Tana in Abyssinia to the Mediterranean-lands that had been forgotten since Roman times, or had never been known at all. In The Blue Nile, Alan Moorehead continues the classic, thrilling narration of adventure he began in The White Nile, depicting this exotic place through the lives of four explorers so daring they can be considered among the world’s original adventurers — each acting and reacting in separate expeditions against a bewildering background of slavery and massacre, political upheaval and all-out war.

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10 .) The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk

Lists It Appears On:

  • Library Thing
  • Goodreads 2

Describes the nineteenth-century struggle between Britain and Russia for control of Central Asia

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9 .) The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Telegraph

Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

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8 .) The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Goodreads 2

“India, 1857—the year of the Great Mutiny, when Muslim soldiers turned in bloody rebellion on their British overlords. This time of convulsion is the subject of J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, widely considered one of the finest British novels of the last fifty years.

Farrell’s story is set in an isolated Victorian outpost on the subcontinent. Rumors of strife filter in from afar, and yet the members of the colonial community remain confident of their military and, above all, moral superiority. But when they find themselves under actual siege, the true character of their dominion—at once brutal, blundering, and wistful—is soon revealed.”

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7 .) The White Nile by Alan Moorehead

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing

Relive all the thrills and adventure of Alan Moorehead’s classic bestseller The White Nile — the daring exploration of the Nile River in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was at that time the most mysterious and impenetrable region on earth. Capturing in breathtaking prose the larger-than-life personalities of such notable figures as Stanley, Livingstone, Burton and many others, The White Nileremains a seminal work in tales of discovery and escapade, filled with incredible historical detail and compelling stories of heroism and drama.

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6 .) Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1) by Chinua Achebe

Lists It Appears On:

  • Telegraph
  • Goodreads

Things Fall Apart is the first of three novels in Chinua Achebe’s critically acclaimed African Trilogy. It is a classic narrative about Africa’s cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior of Umuofia in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British political andreligious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.

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5 .) White Mughals by William Dalrymple

Lists It Appears On:

  • The Guardian
  • Wikipedia 2

“White Mughals is the romantic and ultimately tragic tale of a passionate love affair that crossed and transcended all the cultural, religious and political boundaries of its time.
James Achilles Kirkpatrick was the British Resident at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad when in 1798 he glimpsed Kahir un-Nissa—’Most excellent among Women’—the great-niece of the Nizam’s Prime Minister and a descendant of the Prophet. Kirkpatrick had gone out to India as an ambitious soldier in the army of the East India Company, eager to make his name in the conquest and subjection of the subcontinent. Instead, he fell in love with Khair and overcame many obstacles to marry her—not least of which was the fact that she was locked away in purdah and engaged to a local nobleman. Eventually, while remaining Resident, Kirkpatrick converted to Islam, and according to Indian sources even became a double-agent working for the Hyderabadis against the East India Company.

It is a remarkable story, involving secret assignations, court intrigue, harem politics, religious and family disputes. But such things were not unknown; from the early sixteenth century, when the Inquisition banned the Portuguese in Goa from wearing the dhoti, to the eve of the Indian mutiny, the ‘white Mughals’ who wore local dress and adopted Indian ways were a source of embarrassments to successive colonial administrations. William Dalrymple unearths such colourful figures as ‘Hindoo Stuart’, who travelled with his own team of Brahmins to maintain his temple of idols, and who spent many years trying to persuade the memsahibs of Calcutta to adopt the sari; and Sir David Ochterlony, Kirkpatrick’s counterpart in Delhi, who took all thirteen of his wives out for evening promenades, each on the back of their own elephant.”

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4 .) Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire by David Cannadine

Lists It Appears On:

  • Wikipedia 2
  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing

With the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese government in 1997, the empire that had lasted three hundred years and “upon which the sun never set” finally lost its hold on the world and slipped into history. But the question of how we understand the British Empire–its origins, nature, purpose, and effect on the world it ruled–is far from settled. In this incisive work, David Cannadine looks at the British Empire from a new perspective–through the eyes of those who created and ruled it–and offers fresh insight into the driving forces behind the Empire. Arguing against the views of Edward Said and others, Cannadine suggests that the British were motivated not only by race, but also by class. The British wanted to domesticate the exotic world of their colonies and to reorder the societies they ruled according to an idealized image of their own class hierarchies.

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3 .) Pax Britannica Trilogy by Jan Morris

Lists It Appears On:

  • Telegraph
  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing

Pax Britannica is actually a collection of three books charting the history of most of the British Imperial experience. The first book in the trilogy is entitled Heaven’s Command and charts the rise of the Victorian Empire. It documents the bravado, confidence, absent mindedness and cunning that led to the creation of the largest empire the world has ever seen. The second book is entitled Pax Britannica and is intended as a snapshot of the Imperial world at the apogee of its power in 1897. This is the year in which Queen Victoria held her Diamond Jubilee in truly imperial pomp and ceremony. The Final book is entitled Farewell the Trumpets and documents the final retreat from the great adventure.

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2 .) Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing
  • Telegraph

First published in 1888, “Plain Tales from the Hills” was Kipling’s first volume of prose fiction. Most of the stories it includes had already appeared in the “Civil and Military Gazette; ” they were written before he reached the age of 22; and they show a remarkably precocious literary talent. His vignettes of life in Brittish India a hundred years ago give vivid insight into Anglo-India at work and play, into a barrack-room life, and into the character of Indians themselves.

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1 .) Burmese Days by George Orwell

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Goodreads 2
  • Library Thing
  • Telegraph

Orwell draws on his years of experience in India to tell this story of the waning days of British imperialism. A handful of Englishmen living in a settlement in Burma congregate in the European Club, drink whiskey, and argue over an impending order to admit a token Asian.

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The 150+ Additional Best Books About The History Of The British Empire



 

#BookAuthorLists
(Titles Appear On 1 List each)
211916: A Novel of the Irish RebellionMorgan LlywelynGoodreads
22A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)Libba BrayGoodreads
23A High Wind in JamaicaRichard HughesGoodreads
24
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples
Wikipedia 2
25A House for Mr BiswasV.S. NaipaulGoodreads
26A Letter from Sydney
The Conversation
27A Passage to IndiaE.M. ForsterGoodreads
28A Spear of Summer GrassDeanna RaybournGoodreads
29A Thousand Splendid SunsKhaled HosseiniGoodreads
30A Town Like AliceNevil ShuteGoodreads
31An Ice-Cream WarWilliam BoydGoodreads
32An Insular PossessionTimothy MoGoodreads
33BehemothScott Westerfeld
Goodreads 2
34Benedict Arnold: A Drama of the American Revolution in Five ActsRobert ZubrinWikipedia
35Beyond All FrontiersEmma DrummondGoodreads
36Bhowani JunctionJohn MastersGoodreads
37Botany BayCharles Bernard NordhoffGoodreads
38Bring Larks And HeroesThomas KeneallyGoodreads
39Canada and the British EmpirePhillip Buckner
Goodreads 2
40Captain Bligh and Mr. ChristianRichard HoughWikipedia
41Century of Wrong
The Conversation
42Circles in a ForestDalene MattheeGoodreads
43Circling the SunPaula McLainGoodreads
44Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban WorldTristram Hunt
Goodreads 2
45Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-1867Catherine Hall
Goodreads 2
46Commissions HighRoy MacLarenFive Books
47Curzon: Imperial StatesmanDavid Gilmour
Library Thing
48Dark Eagle : A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the American RevolutionJohn Ensor HarrWikipedia
49Day of EmpireWikipedia 2
50Domestic Manners of the AmericansFanny Trollope
The Guardian
51Empire: How Britain Made the Modern WorldNiall Ferguson
Goodreads 2
52Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the BritishJeremy Paxman
Goodreads 2
53English PassengersMatthew KnealeGoodreads
54Fiela’s ChildDalene MattheeGoodreads
55Flashman at the Charge (Flashman Papers, #4)George MacDonald FraserGoodreads
56Flashman’s LadyGeorge MacDonald Fraser
Goodreads 2
57For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World’s Favourite DrinkSarah Rose
Goodreads 2
58Forget The GloryEmma DrummondGoodreads
59Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945C.A. Bayly
Goodreads 2
60Forgotten War (book)Wikipedia 2
61Fragrant HarborJohn LanchesterGoodreads
62Fragrant HavenSiobhan DaikoGoodreads
63Free LanceGeorge ShipwayGoodreads
64Gender and EmpirePhilippa Levine
Goodreads 2
65Half of a Yellow SunChimamanda Ngozi AdichieGoodreads
66Heart of DarknessJoseph ConradGoodreads
67Heat And DustRuth Prawer JhabvalaGoodreads
68Her Majesty’s Secret ServiceChristopher Andrew
Library Thing
69Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston ChurchillCandice Millard
Goodreads 2
70Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of ArabiaMichael Korda
Goodreads 2
71Hind Swaraj
The Conversation
72Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of EmpireDavid Anderson
Goodreads 2
73History of England
The Conversation
74Hong KongJan Morris
Library Thing
75Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial ContestAnne McClintock
Goodreads 2
76Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in KenyaCaroline Elkins
Goodreads 2
77Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an EmpireAlex von Tunzelmann
Goodreads 2
78Jane Eyre
The Conversation
79Journal of the Disasters in AffghanistanFlorentia Sale
The Guardian
80King Solomon’s Mines (Allan Quatermain, #1)H. Rider HaggardGoodreads
81Kingfishers Catch FireRumer GoddenGoodreads
82Like Hidden Fire: The Plot to Bring Down the British EmpirePeter Hopkirk
Goodreads 2
83Lord JimJoseph ConradGoodreads
84Master and CommanderPatrick O’Brian
Goodreads 2
85Master GeorgieBeryl BainbridgeGoodreads
86Midnight’s ChildrenSalman RushdieGoodreads
87Mihiriga ya Agikuyu
The Conversation
88Mister JohnsonJoyce CaryGoodreads
89Morgan’s RunColleen McCulloughGoodreads
90Mr. Kipling’s ArmyByron Farwell
Library Thing
91Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #1)C.S. ForesterGoodreads
92My Brilliant CareerMiles Franklin
The Guardian
93
My Twenty-one Years in the Fiji Islands
The Conversation
94National Life and Character
The Conversation
95Nightrunners of BengalJohn MastersGoodreads
96North-west FrontierArthur Swinson
Library Thing
97One Last LookSusanna MooreGoodreads
98Original Letters from IndiaEliza Fay
The Guardian
99Out of AfricaKaren Blixen
The Guardian
100Phenomena: The Lost and Forgotten ChildrenSusan Tarr
Goodreads 2
101Picnic at Hanging RockJoan LindsayGoodreads
102Pirate LatitudesMichael Crichton
Goodreads 2
103Prester JohnJohn BuchanGoodreads
104Profiles in FollyWikipedia 2
105Queen Victoria’s Little WarsByron Farwell
Library Thing
106Rabble in ArmsKenneth RobertsGoodreads
107Rags Of GloryStuart CloeteGoodreads
108Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916Peter de RosaGoodreads
109Return of a KingWikipedia 2
110Rikki-Tikki-TaviRudyard KiplingGoodreads
111Rorke’s Drift: The Zulu War, 1879James W. Bancroft
Library Thing
112Sanders Of The RiverEdgar WallaceGoodreads
113Sandokan: The Two TigersEmilio SalgariGoodreads
114Scouting for Boys
The Conversation
115Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)Amitav GhoshGoodreads
116Shadow of the MoonM.M. KayeGoodreads
117She (She, #1)H. Rider HaggardGoodreads
118Shooting an ElephantGeorge OrwellGoodreads
119Some Far Elusive DawnEmma DrummondGoodreads
120Staying OnPaul Scott
Goodreads 2
121Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the RajJan Morris
Library Thing
122Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)James ClavellGoodreads
123Tales From the Dark ContinentCharles Allen
Library Thing
124Tales from the South China Seas: Images of the British in South East Asia in the Twentieth CenturyCharles Allen
Library Thing
125TalwarRobert CarterGoodreads
126TanameraNoel BarberGoodreads
127The Bastard (Kent Family Chronicles, #1)John JakesGoodreads
128The Black Jacobins
The Conversation
129The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British EmpireJohn Newsinger
Goodreads 2
130The Boer WarThomas Pakenham
Goodreads 2
131The British Empire: Sunrise to SunsetPhilippa Levine
Goodreads 2
132The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street (The Cairo Trilogy #1-3)Naguib MahfouzGoodreads
133The Crimean War: A HistoryOrlando Figes
Goodreads 2
134The DeceiversJohn MastersGoodreads
135The Diamond RockGeoffrey BennettWikipedia
136The Empire ProjectJohn DarwinFive Books
137The Empire TriptychJan Morris
The Guardian
138
The Evil Empire: 101 Ways That England Ruined the World
Wikipedia 2
139The Far PavilionsM.M. KayeGoodreads
140The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s FoundingRobert Hughes
Goodreads 2
141The Four FeathersA.E.W. MasonGoodreads
142The GeneralsSimon ScarrowWikipedia
143The Gentleman in the ParlourW. Somerset Maugham
Library Thing
144The Gift of RainTan Twan EngGoodreads
145The Ginger TreeOswald WyndGoodreads
146The Glass PalaceAmitav GhoshGoodreads
147The Grass Is SingingDoris Lessing
The Guardian
148The Great Mutiny: India 1857Christopher Hibbert
Goodreads 2
149The Honourable SchoolboyJohn le CarréGoodreads
150The Horizon History of the British EmpireStephen W. Sears
Library Thing
151The Ideological Origins of the British EmpireDavid Armitage
Goodreads 2
152The Inner Life of EmpiresEmma RothschildFive Books
153The Jungle BooksRudyard KiplingGoodreads
154The King’s Rifle: A NovelBiyi Bandele-ThomasGoodreads
155The Kraals of Ulundi: A Novel of the Zulu WarDavid EbsworthGoodreads
156The Ladies of MissalonghiColleen McCulloughGoodreads
157The Last HeroPeter ForbathGoodreads
158The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory 1874-1932William Manchester
Goodreads 2
159The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857William Dalrymple
Goodreads 2
160The Last of the Mohicans (The Leatherstocking Tales #2)James Fenimore CooperGoodreads
161The Light Between OceansM.L. StedmanGoodreads
162The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan TrilogyAnthony BurgessGoodreads
163The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard KiplingDavid Gilmour
Library Thing
164The Man in the Wooden HatJane Gardam
Goodreads 2
165The Man Who Would Be KingRudyard KiplingGoodreads
166The Mulberry EmpirePhilip HensherGoodreads
167The Mulberry ForestDalene MattheeGoodreads
168The MutinyJulian RathboneGoodreads
169The New Zealand Wars TrilogyMaurice ShadboltGoodreads
170The Orchid TreeSiobhan DaikoGoodreads
171The Ordeal of Elizabeth MarshLinda Colley
The Guardian
172The Palace of Heavenly PleasureAdam WilliamsGoodreads
173The Pelican History of England: Tudor EnglandS. T. Bindoff
Library Thing
174The Piano TunerDaniel MasonGoodreads
175The Pillars of the EarthKen Follett
Library Thing
176The Rainbow and the RoseNevil ShuteGoodreads
177The Raj QuartetPaul ScottGoodreads
178The Razor’s EdgeW. Somerset MaughamGoodreads
179The Rise and Fall of the British EmpireLawrence James
Goodreads 2
180The Secret GardenFrances Hodgson BurnettGoodreads
181The Secret RiverKate GrenvilleGoodreads
182The Singapore GripJ.G. FarrellGoodreads
183The Triumph of the Sun (Courtney, #12)Wilbur SmithGoodreads
184The White Woman on the Green BicycleMonique RoffeyGoodreads
185There Is Room for You: A NovelCharlotte BaconGoodreads
186To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern WorldArthur Herman
Goodreads 2
187To the Ends of the EarthTM DevineFive Books
188Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central AsiaKarl E. Meyer
Library Thing
189Travels in West AfricaMary Kingsley
The Guardian
190TroublesJ.G. FarrellGoodreads
191Tune That They PlayWilliam Clive
Library Thing
192Understanding the British EmpireRonald HyamFive Books
193Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of BritainJohn Darwin
Goodreads 2
194When the Going Was GoodEvelyn Waugh
Library Thing
195Wide Sargasso SeaJean RhysGoodreads
196Wilderness At Dawn: The Settling of the North American ContinentTed Morgan
Library Thing
197Will Poole’s IslandTim WeedGoodreads
198Young BloodsSimon ScarrowWikipedia
199ZemindarValerie FitzgeraldGoodreads
200Zulu Victory: The Epic of Isandlwana and the Cover-up (Greenhill Military)Ron Lock
Library Thing


9 Best British Empire Book Sources/Lists



SourceArticle
Five Books David Cannadine recommends the best books on the British Empire
Goodreads The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire
Goodreads 2 Popular British Empire Books
Library Thing Best British Empire History Books
Telegraph Kwasi Kwarteng picks five great books about empire
The Conversation The books that shaped the rise and fall of the British empire
The Guardian Top 10 books about women in the British empire
Wikipedia British Empire in fiction
Wikipedia 2 History books about the British Empire