Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906
To live in nineteenth-century Britain was to experience an astonishing series of changes, of a kind for which there was simply no precedent in the human experience. There were revolutions in transport, communication, work; cities grew vast; scientific ideas made the intellectual landscape unrecognizable. This was an exhilarating time, but also a horrifying one.
In his dazzling new book David Cannadine has created a bold, fascinating new interpretation of the British nineteenth century in all its energy and dynamism, darkness and vice. This was a country which saw itself at the summit of the world. And yet it was a society also convulsed by doubt, fear and introspection. Repeatedly, politicians and writers felt themselves to be staring into the abyss and what is seen sometimes seen as an era of irritating self-belief was in practice obsessed by a sense of its own fragility, whether as a great power or as a moral force.
Victorious Century is an extraordinarily enjoyable book - its author catches the relish, humour and theatricality of the age, but also the dilemmas of a kind with which we remain familiar today. It reframes a time at once strangely familiar and yet wholly unlike our own.