Special Feature: The Age of Decadence: A History of Britain: 1880-1914 by Simon Heffer

I don’t read a ton of non fiction or history books anymore. I mean I kind of got my fill when I was doing my masters in history. It’s not that I don’t love history or reading non fiction history books, but I have to been in the mood for one. I do love history books, but for the most part, I lean toward novels and fiction or mysteries. But ever once in a while a great history book catches my eye.

One of my favorite periods in history is that odd few years between the Victorian era and WWI. It was a time of elegance and riches the likes of which the world is unlikely to ever see again. At the start of the Great War, the world as we know it under went massive social change and it’s such an exciting time period for me.

That was one of the reasons why this book caught my eye. It pinpoints my favorite period in history and brings it directly into the spotlight. Simon Heffer’s 900+ page history book has received some high praise from readers. While it might be on the long side, it covers so much of British history in great detail…..social, artistic, and cultural history come together in this exciting new history book! I cannot wait to check out some of the topics he covers in this one. And it sounds like it’s a very readable history book rather than a dull text. I am really looking forward to this one!

Summary

A richly detailed history of Britain at its imperial zenith, revealing the simmering tensions and explosive rivalries beneath the opulent surface of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The popular memory of Britain in the years before the Great War is of a powerful, contented, orderly, and thriving country. Britain commanded a vast empire: she bestrode international commerce. Her citizens were living longer, profiting from civil liberties their grandparents only dreamed of and enjoying an expanding range of comforts and pastimes. The mood of pride and self-confidence can be seen in Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches, newsreels of George V’s coronation, and London’s great Edwardian palaces.

Yet beneath the surface things were very different  In The Age of Decadence, Simon Heffer exposes the contradictions of late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He explains how, despite the nation’s massive power, a mismanaged war against the Boers in South Africa created profound doubts about her imperial destiny. He shows how attempts to secure vital social reforms prompted the twentieth century’s gravest constitutional crisis—and coincided with the worst industrial unrest in British history. He describes how politicians who conceded the vote to millions more men disregarded women so utterly that female suffragists’ public protest bordered on terrorism. He depicts a ruling class that fell prey to degeneracy and scandal. He analyses a national psyche that embraced the motor-car, the sensationalist press, and the science fiction of H. G. Wells, but also the nostalgia of A. E. Housman. (summary from Goodreads)

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