Empire, by Jeremy Paxman


This breezy character-study of the British empire reveals a quirky humour that the great interrogator strictly rations on TV.

We learn that the opium factory founded by the East India Co. still functions at Ghazipur despite an infestation of monkeys. They "do not impede production because they're addicted to opium and spend much of the day lying round." Laudanum is not "a diluted form of opium", but a potent solution in alcohol. Other jolly insights concern imperial moustaches, Edward VII weighing his guests and Baden-Powell's disapproval of breathing via the mouth.