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The Victorians
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The title of this book is important. It's not really a history book as such, but a series of mini-biographies of various Victorians in approximate chronological order. I'm not qualified to say how comprehensive the list of Victorians is, but they are drawn mainly from the worlds of politics, art and literature. Scientists, engineers and other prominent Victorians are not well covered in this work.
A more accurate title therefore might be "Some Victorians".
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on 18 March 2014
A good readable history covering the whole of the Victorian period. Individual chapters break the years down decade by decade and A.N Wilson covers a wealth of topics spanning all of society from the upper classes to the workhouse poor.

My only criticism would be that within each chapter he tends to ramble from one subject to the next. Locating a specific piece of information within this ongoing discussion is difficult at best.

Nevertheless this is still one of the best books to summarize such a long and important era in British history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2012
A wonderful book with plenty of detail but written in an interesting style. One to keep for reference purposes, full of good historical information.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2004
Well, maybe I am being slightly melodramatic. but I truely have enjoyed this book. The chapters move from topic to topic in an interesting and inovative way, taking you on a journey through an inderviduals life to the policies and politics of the world.
At the beginning of the chapter there is just no knowing where the end is going to lead, but you do know it is going to be great getting there.
I completely understand the reservations of other readers, I was also going to give up when I was only 60 pages in but luckily I carried on and to my gain. Once the virgin reader of A. N. Wilson has become acustomed to his exiting, but sometimes initially challenging, writing style it is truely a delightful read. The humor he injects in to the narrative and the careful links made between modern life and that of our predecesers makes this book the champion of Victorian history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2012
As a last minute purchase for Christmas, pleasantly surprised this book arrived in plenty of time and was much appreciated by recipient.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2013
Beautifully illustrated and full of interesting facts about the Victorians. Gave it to a friend as a coffee table book. Looks good
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2013
Useful for the researcher, but readable for pleasure and interest as well. A good bargain - not sure I could afford it new.
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on 5 February 2013
This is a well presented book with good illustrations and photos. It is well written with such an incisive and refreshingly different angle on the history of the time, it not only covered little known facts and gave a sympathetic airing to issues and people which the usual orthodoxy does not, it had me laughing out loud. Great book and great informative present for those interested in this era
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on 17 November 2009
A.N Wilson's book 'The Victorians' is a suberb book of popular history from the Victorian period,full of detail wit and and a eye for the unexpected, well worth buying.
I bought the book through Amazon.co.uk and recieved it within two days.In my estimation Mr Wilson is the best writer I've read.
Your's David Mcmillan.
P.S Looking forward to my next A.N Wilson book
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2012
The Victorian era is a massive subject and no single volume can hope to do much more than scratch the surface. This particular volume suffers from two faults that entirely spoilt my enjoyment, although there are certainly gems to be found in here. The book's biggest problem is that it takes too broad a focus - Wilson seems to want to include everything he possibly can, with the result that whilst a few subjects are dealt with in depth, most are mentioned merely in passing, and Wilson jumps between subjects and individuals with little rhyme or reason.

But for me the biggest failing of this book is the author's prejudices, which weigh heavy on nearly every page. There is no sense of this being an objective history - this is Wilson's take on the Victorians. We therefore hear him dismissing the Royal Family wholesale as 'stupid' - apart from Prince Albert, who, according to Wilson, was a better composer than Vaughan-Williams. I felt I learned far more about Wilson from this book than I did about the Victorian age.

On some subjects - notably anything to do with 'women's issues' - the reader must dodge Wilson's snide remarks. For instance, when talking about Coventry Patmore's notorious poem, 'The Angel in the House', he says, 'The Angel, it is perhaps unnecessary to remind intelligent readers, is not an idealised picture of woman: it is the Domestic Love which exists between men and women'. This seems to me, at best, somewhat disingenuous. Here's an extract from the poem - 'Man must be pleased; but him to please/Is woman's pleasure; down the gulf/Of his condoled necessities/She casts her best, she flings herself.' If this is a portrait of domestic love, it's one in which the woman is entirely subservient to her 'master'.

Wilson has a tendency to say one thing while meaning another. For instance, he quite rightly states that the Contagious Diseases Acts, which permitted police to arrest women and subject them to medical examinations, were framed by a 'monstrous and phallocentric ideology'. I think his tongue must be firmly in his cheek, because he goes on to give a shrug of the shoulders and say that, after all, syphilis was a horrible disease, and if halting its spread meant the forcible examination of women suspected of being whores, then so be it. Indeed, Wilson claims that prostitutes were actually materially better off than other working class women - 'they were able to afford rooms of their own, new clothes, heat, cooked food, and above all alcohol'. Well, that's all hunky dory then, isn't it?

He brushes aside the incipient women's movement as an irrelevance, dominated by middle-class women who didn't really have much to complain about anyway. Here's another example of what seems a bit snidey to me - he makes the point that it was true women were denied entry to professions and not allowed to take university degrees, but adds that most male members of the population were also denied these things. Which is undeniably true, of course, but it seems that Wilson refuses to admit that there was anything even slightly misogynistic in Victorian society, although he does acknowledge that married women were not allowed separate property rights until the 1882 Act. In an effort to appear (I suppose) balanced, he ends up sounding like one of those people who dismiss all feminists as humourless 'man haters'.

I was disappointed, too, with his analysis (if I can call it that) of the enduring interest in the Jack the Ripper murders. It's his belief that people remain so fascinated with the Ripper killings because the victims were prostitutes. Personally I think the interest remains precisely because the murders remain unsolved. The Ripper could have been just about anyone, and that I think is what makes his reign of terror - and its inexplicable cessation - so chilling.
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