I say surprisingly good because I approached this book with some trepidation, there seem to have been an awful lot of books 'explaining' the Georgian Age and this period of history generally. Colley had also picked out a very broad and dynamic period to try to sum up in a relatively limited space. However, I was very pleasantly surprised with this book which I think provides an asset to anybody interested in this period. Colley shows herself to have a very good grasp of her material, but she also manages to bring in a broad range of information - from political movements to ballads, to satires to art - to make some thought-provoking conclusions.
As a social history it is well written but cannot hope to thoroughly cover every issue from the chosen era - a period defined from the Act of Union in 1707 until the start of the Victorian age in 1837. Of course this period of history includes some of the biggest changes in British culture and social structure - the rapid decline of disease, the huge jump in population, the industrial revolution with all its influences on roads, canals, post and so on. Colley instead has limited herself to some major issues and the changes - she divides these subjects up into 8 broad areas, Protestants, Profits, Peripheries, Dominance, Majesty, Womanpower, Manpower and Victories.
Having recently read the Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana, 5th Duchess of Devonshire - I was most interested in Colley's discussion under the section on Womanpower, on the role of women in society using the active role of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and the role of the caricaturists and satirists of the day and I thought Colley managed to shed new light on the subject and women's role at this time.
However, there were some disappointments - no doubt due to the size of the book versus the topic covered - some things were treated with less thoroughness than they deserved. I felt for instance the problems of the Militia was dealt with in too short a manner. It really was predominantly the post-1803 problems of militia with some minor references to the Militia acts of the previous century. Why is this important? Well the militia did provide a vital role for law and order in a country without a police force, and that the British public were very reluctant to have an armed force at all - however given that a large proportion of the period of this book (1707-1837) was spent at War with France then I think that this subject deserved a bit more thorough treatment.
The book is illustrated in B/W pictures which intersperse the text occassionally. It is very well footnoted and all in all I think an excellent asset for anyone interested in this period.