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High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain by [Heffer, Simon]
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High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Review

"Heffer has written a stunning overview of the great and the good – and the not-so-good – of Victorian society and of the changes which a largely benevolent capitalism brought about." (Sarah Bradford, The Literary Review)

"High Minds is worthy to the task: serious, scholarly, grand and determined...an excellent guide to the aesthetics of the age." (Tristram Hunt, New Statesman)

"[I]t is really a whole bookshelf of books. If you want a succinct volume on the Clarendon Commission and the debates on education, there is a not-so-slim volume embedded here. There is another on the desperate case of the formidable Caroline Norton and the battle to give women rights...another on the great philanthropists; another on crime and punishment; another (wonderfully detailed and compelling) on the Great Exhibition and the foundation of Albertopolis; another on the sewers; a terrific essay on the struggle between Gothic and Italianate architecture; and of course plenty of politics...This is a great sweeping, confident book, demonstrating the self-same energy and passion as do the Victorian heroes Heffer celebrates. It is a magnificent achievement." (William Waldegrave, The Times)

"[A] stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable book...[Heffer] is sometimes tendentious but never unreasonable, writes notably well and provides an admirable introduction to a period of history which many of us will think that we know quite well but have never considered from this point of view before." (Philip Ziegler, The Spectator)

"High Minds is partly social history, partly a history of ideas. It is the personalities involved that contribute such liveliness to this assured and magisterial narrative." (Matthew Dennison, The Sunday Telegraph)

"There is something enormously refreshing about reading a history book with such a passionate moral agenda, as well as one with such scope, energy and intellectual clarity. High Minds is a book Heffer’s heroes would have loved – and perhaps there is no higher compliment than that." (Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times)

"[A]bsolutely riveting . . . As dramatic as he is bold, as droll as he insightful, Heffer keeps his foot firmly on the throttle throughout, ensuring the narrative never flags." (John Preston, Daily Mail)

"Magnificent... [A] gloriously detailed narrative." (S J D Green Standpoint)

Book Description

An ambitious exploration of the making of the Victorian age and the Victorian mind.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5696 KB
  • Print Length: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (3 Oct. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D8X56AU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,939 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a worthy book, but ultimately a disappointing one. Simon Heffer's journalism is trenchant and stimulating; this is neither. It is an assiduous account of some important aspects of Victorian Britain with an emphasis on intellectual history but including much on social and political trends. Its heroes are the Arnolds, father and son, and Gladstone. But you never get a clear account of the positions Gladstone held at different times (a chronology would have been very useful) or how influential Matthew Arnold was. Indeed all the thinkers whose work is here elaborated (with generous, or perhaps excessive, quotation) are left hanging - how influential were they? You can't tell from this.

Where he scores is in the account of the attitudes that had to be overcome in the interests of what seems now like natural progress, whether on the franchise, the rights of women, or the reform of the army and civil service. This is good stuff, and justifies the detailed account of some of the parliamentary battles.

This a very London-centric book. Heffer almost sounds embarrassed by his excursion to Yorkshire to describe Saltaire. Yet the provincial cities were crucial to the prosperity and development of the country during those years.

It kept my attention throughout, so just about gets four stars,. but I cannot offer a very enthusiastic recommendation.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Simon Heffer is a journalist of some 30 years standing, writing regular columns for the Telegraph, Mail and Spectator. He has a Cambridge PhD in History. His previous books include ones on Enoch Powell, Carlyle, English and Power. Like all his writings this 900 page book is written in an elegant style, with verve and flair.

The author concentrates on the period 1838 to 1880. He examines within this period a number of intellectual, social and political themes, particularly the first two. On the social front he discusses how a nation of 'widespread inhumanity' was transformed into one of civilisation and democracy. He examines the work of intellectuals like Matthew Arnold, and the role of religion. Despite the rapid population growth and industrial change he argues that these massive challenges were, on the whole, embraced. The book does not include an analysis of the Empire or Foreign Affairs. Heffer deals with the crucial events of 1842, 1842 and 1866-7, events that threatened revolution. He is merciless in his examination of poverty, health, lack of proper sewage treatment, crime and the judicial system. He details the appalling living conditions of the poor and the equally dreadful treatment of the mentally ill. The ballot was corrupt, army commissions were bought and local government was almost non-existent. Educational provision was for the rich and males only. The position of women, including wives, was shameful.

Heffer discusses the abolition of the Corn Laws, the Chartist movement, the decline of religion and the rise of secularism, the legacy of the Great Exhibition, and the gradual transformation of all these ills by 1880.

The book covers much that others have but Heffer does so very skilfully, in more detail and very clearly.
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Format: Hardcover
No, it is not a must-read!
If you have a serious interest in Victorian history, it's certainly worth a go. But some of it is very heavy going indeed. Good chapters are those on the general condition of England and on Prince Albert, and his Memorial. And at last I understand the repeal of the Corn Laws. But 800 pages, in which the troubles of the mid-Victorian divines proliferate in one's brain, is a heavy price to pay for these informative gobbets.
I felt there was a fine concise chronological survey of 1830-1885 struggling to get out of this obese volume where every time I thought we were getting closer to 1880, I found myself suddenly flung back to 1850!
Thank Goodness I got it from the library, whither it returns.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most important books on England's transition to modern life and laws we now have. And it happened 150 years ago. Incredible.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
splendid history of Victorian England with many new anecdotes and some very droll observations. give it to someone you love for christmas or whatever excuse you will find suitable
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Format: Hardcover
Heffer tells us the Victorians were disciplined and moral - this is news??? - and takes 896 pages to do so. Any book that long better have an idea lurking in there somewhere, or a more inspiring overarching theme. Sadly, the vaster a book's bulk, the easier it is to conceal the lack of the former, while the promise of the title materializes only in the sense that, well, yes, after the Victorians came us - and we are quite different! Now there's a subject for a book better than this tired old rehash

The national reviewers have been too kind, or just plain lazy. This book is fated to be given for Christmas and to join the Great Unread, except by those who share Heffer's right-wing agenda. Though Philip Hensher has quite a nice little mot in his Telegraph review: 'Darwin shocked the Victorians by pointing out that they were all descended from apes. You could probably shock a lot of 21st-century readers by pointing out the countless ways in which we are intellectually descended from the Victorians.' Yes and no, Philip
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