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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Start to Study, 11 Sep 2003
By 
I. R. Bishop "flamins" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The nineteenth century is a hideously complex period of British history. It has an incredibly wide-ranging scope of political, social, industrial and imperial dimensions. Colin Matthew does his best to provide a snapshot of the most salient features of each. It is no surprise that this is one of the longest of the VSI, and at times it is painfully clear that a very great amount of detail has been omitted in order to create a manageable volume. I cannot criticise Matthew for doing this, after all, these are supposed to be Very Short Introductions. Nevertheless, I felt that some issues - particularly electoral reform and the imperial dimension - were covered so briefly as to be almost useless. Major political study is also beyond the capacity of such a short book, and titanic figures such as Disraeli get very brief coverage. Again, this is not so much a failing of Matthew, but rather a revelation of the remarkable complexity of 19th century British history.
I am an advocate of the VSI series, and believe that they provide an essential narrative overview which is invaluable to a student embarking for the first time on an new area of study. In this regard, I would endorse Matthew's effort as a useful work. Yet with all the VSI's, it is important to be very aware that they are only the very beginnings of knowledge of the field. I was particularly aware of this in the case of Matthew's introduction to 19th century Britain, and would caution all readers that some of the (necessarily) truncated narrative is so deficient that it practically constitutes a half truth. However, if the reader bears this in mind, the book can still provide a useful overview of the major events and issues in the 19th century, and will be a useful backdrop for further study.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Very Big Disappointment, 14 April 2014
This review is from: Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The text of this book was first published in The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain (1984) and it is a moot point as to whether it deserved a second exposure. It is self-evident that a “very short introduction” must be selective in both width and depth. In this volume, however, the handling of topics is far too selective and shallow: if I had a good knowledge of the introduction and impact of the Corn Laws, for example, I would not need to read this book; if I did not have that knowledge, I would not gain it here.

The book contains a number of illustrations, but they are generally too small to be of great use; the maps, in particular, are quite awful – apart from their wholly inadequate size (which is particularly marked in relation to the maps of the British Empire), it is simply not possible to distinguish the different levels of information given on the (separate) maps of the canal and railway networks or the map showing urban population growth.

This Very Short Introduction was, without question, a Very Big Disappointment.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good general introduction, 24 Jan 2011
By 
D. J. Andrews "David Andrews" (Keele, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This is a good general introduction to the subject matter and it helps you get a genuine feel for Britain in this period. That said it has a passive voice that sometimes doesn't bring your attention to the facts that much, however this is easily cured by reading the book a chapter at a time as a collection of essays. Out of the `Very Short Introductions` that I have read the Medieval Britain one was by far the best ... if you want something more specialised about the period read Brigg's Victorian Cities. However if your approaching this subject from an academic standpoint it is always good to start with one of these introductions
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunity, 14 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Not keen on the literary style of this book. Good deliver more facts in bullet point format if brevity is its main goal.
Rather pretentious.
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