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The biggest criticism anyone will ever find on a "Brief History Of" book is how much is left out. There are volumes upon volumes of histories of Victorian Britain out there, but this one is a social history. Names, dates, and events are used as touchstones here and nothing more; the real attraction is the Victorian society itself. The etiquette, protocol, fashion, habits, beliefs, attitudes, and lifestyles are put under the spotlight. Everything from bowler hats and hoopskirts to calling cards, curry, technological innovation, and Imperialism are looked at in terms of what it means to have these things as a part of everyday life. The queen herself and her prince consort are given a brief biography with the understanding that their examples set the stage for the transitions that had already begun when Victoria took the throne and seeing them through to the beginnings of the first world war. As an entry point into this era of history, this book is perfect for understanding why things were as they were, and it provides several launching points for further exploration. For those who already have the history under their belts, this book fleshes it all out from a more human perspective than a dry narrative might otherwise provide.
Mark Meadows is a fantastic narrator for this. His easy-going delivery makes this book even easier to connect with, and the result is the brief time you spend will seem even more brief if you're remotely inclined towards the subject matter.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
As brief histories go, this one is extremely well done. Paterson's social history of Queen Victoria's reign is short on generalizations and dense with well-organized and meaty information about everything from architecture and furnishings to food and fashion. He stresses in particular the social revolutions that took place thanks to innovations in transportation and literacy during the Victorian era. Throughout his study, Paterson draws attention to how thoroughly life transformed from the beginning of Victoria's reign to its close, and how this age of intense change (both physical and intellectual) not only set the stage for much of the world we've inherited globally in the twenty-first century, but also marks the experience of that time as one that resembles our own more closely than we might realize.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
For anyone interested in this era, this is a really good place to start. True, the style is a bit dry at times - this tries to be comprehensive after all - but never boring. The reader tries his best to give live to the dry text and generally succeeds, aided by the relatively simple language. A gem for the interested layman.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I've got an interest in Victorian Britain and this book covers many facets is decent detail of how the Victorians used to live. One thing that stood out to me was the amount of wars that Britain had and the state of conditions that the soldiers needed to contend with. This book will definitely get a second read in the future although I will be reading Simon Schama's history of Britain first as I know this will be more in depth and cover a wider period.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful