Piers Brendon:

"The Decline and Fall of the British Empire" (2007)

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
This book covers the two centuries from 1781 to 1997, roughly from the end of the Independence War that turned the American colonies into the USA until the day that Britain ceded Hong Kong back to China (also the year that Lady Diana died and that Tony Blair was elected prime minister).

Brendon's style is unconventional for a historian: avoiding pomp and stereotypes, he delves into minute details that deliver a feeling of history as if you were living it. While there is no extensive portrait of the protagonists, he always manages to paint their personalities vividly and honestly. In many cases this offers a witty and sarcastic take on the British Empire, particularly on its many atrocities and unfair treatments of subjects, not to mention a more balanced view of some of the empire's heroes, who were not always the prototype of your ideal neighbor (notably Churchill).