Neal Ascherson writes:
Within the limits it sets itself, The Inner Life of Empires is original and unforgettable. It’s not an easy read. But trouble taken to copy out the names and careers of the 11 siblings, who will otherwise grow jumbled in the reader’s memory, is well worth the while. So are the 152 pages of endnotes. Some will protest that their content should be in the main text, but I found their immensely detailed ramblings a rabbit-warren of intriguing information. The success of this book is that, once familiar with the Johnstones and their passions, doubts, hypocrisies and ambitions, a reader will always yearn to know more about them.