Wednesday, June 2, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906 by David Cannadine

 I bought Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906 by David Cannadine a couple of years ago, because I wanted to have a historical framework for all the period Romances I keep reading. This is, according the to book jacket, “The new, definitive history of the nineteenth century in Britain from one of the world’s most authoritative historians.” 

My intentions were good, but the book was rather an intimidating doorstop, so it took awhile before I got up the motivation to read it.

The book is an impressive undertaking. It’s primarily a political and economic history, walking the reader through the successive prime ministers and their cabinets. It does a good job of presenting the major political questions of the times and explaining where the Tories stood versus the Whigs on the issues, and how that evolved into the Conservatives versus the Liberals. The various wars fought by the British during those years are folded into the timeline, but are not given particular emphasis. The monarchs are mentioned, but take a backseat to the politicians. And there is a smidgen of social history, listing some of the writers and artists of the age. It’s densely written, interesting but not a page turner. The author provides a massive amount of information, but keeps a steady focus to make it a manageable book.

Given that my knowledge of the history was pretty cursory, this was a good place to start for a general outline, but there is no way I could absorb all the political information. Some things stood out as areas I’d like to read about in more depth, but a lot of the other information blurred as I read on. It would be interesting to re-read the book after more in-depth exploration of the time period, but I doubt I’ll have that much motivation. I’ll settle for the big picture this book provided.

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