Why I Read It: Fascination with British history.
Summary: The Victorian Era, decade by decade, in about 250 pages.
My Thoughts: I've read a lot of British history, I've read a lot about the Victorian Era. I've traveled through London looking at Victorian Era landmarks. This was the first time I really thought about the concept of a Victorian era.
What, other than the life of one woman, was it that bound the 1837-1901 timeframe together? Nothing.
And yet, somehow it strangely compels us to look at it as if it matters. Consider the ends. At the beginning of the era, the main mode of transportation was the horse. At the end, airplanes were in development. Victorian society did not march from a place of woe to a place of greatness. The timeline is filled with peaks and valleys, victories and horrible losses. And yet, we consider it an era.
And so, we roll with it. '
The book is mostly a political history, with Gladstone and Disraeli and even the first Churchill. If Queen Victoria truly had an influence during this time, across the great expanse of it, it was in her political work, of calling for governments to be built, and interacting with the men she believed would help England over the next hurdle. The politics typically involved class struggles, but just as often had to do with problems beyond the borders of England, with famines in Ireland, with the struggles of empire in India, South Africa and more.
But the author dives into the social history, the major authors of the day, like Dickens and Trollope and Eliot. He explores the rise of sports and sporting clubs, gender, race, religion, the Crimean War, the Boer War and more. He does all that he can with 250 pages. We are left with a thorough narrative of the political changes, a dash here and there of the rest, but in the end it's a big question we're left with. Did life really change in England once Victoria was gone? Was the end of her era really the end of an era?
Right now it is, because we said so.