In his dazzling new book, David Cannadine has created a bold, fascinating new interpretation of the British 19th 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.
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By Max Shafer-landau on 17-10-17
Blandly toeing the line between macro and micro
I took issue with the scope of this book. No doubt, David Cannadine has set himself a monumental task by tackling an entire century of Britain's greatest achievements, but to do so effectively, I believe this work should have been twice as long or constructed differently. Victorious Century reads like a continual list of names and abstract verbs, none of which we get to know very well. Even important ministers are easy to forget when they're immersed in myriad other names and quickly disappear. There is also no talk of tangible history at all. Even when an embarrassing incident at a coronation is explicitly mentioned, there's no exposition that details the episode and the narration plows ahead ceaselessly. There are few quotes and those there are last no longer than one or two sentences. Nearly every sentence contains at least one proper noun, but at no point do we ever get an idea of who or what that noun really was. This takes away from the gripping nature of the history and if you zone out or snooze for a little bit, it doesn't feel like anything is lost.
I wish this would either be more macroscopic and delve deeper into the large trends and forces at play or actually illustrate some amount of the history as it occurred. As it stands, I can't say this is anything more than a good, comprehensive introduction that must be accompanied by further, more in depth reading for any of this history to stick or be meaningful.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Neil Robinson on 26-11-17
Interesting book, poorly read
This history is interesting, although not that remarkable. The reader mispronounces quite a number of words, particularly names of people and places. The most egregious, and repeated, misreading is saying, for example, "ten dee in the pound" when reading "10d in the pound". He is apparently unaware that "d" is the historical abbreviation for penny and hence that this should be read as "ten pence in the pound". Such a mispronunciation is the bizarre equivalent of saying "ess ten" when reading "$10".
3 of 4 people found this review helpful