First published in 1936, the author, whose age at the time of writing I don't know, may have benefited from personal or family knowledge of many of the events and personalities he describes. Perhaps for this reason the personalities of the major players are drawn vividly: characters like Balfour, Asquith, Joe Chamberlain who played a major part in the convoluted politics of the nineties and Edwardian era.
It seems to me this was a period of incredibly complex change: the end of the mid-Victorian sobriety, the end of Britain as an agricultural nation, the end of the hegemony of devout Christianity, the frenzied pace of reform and the development of infrastructure, and the increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere of European politics as the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of German nationalism threatened the status quo.
Ensor is very fair to everyone, perhaps with a slight liberal bias, but strong Tory characters like Disraeli come out well, though he's not a massive fan of Salisbury, whose diplomatic skills are perhaps underrated.
Ensor's greatest strength though is his absolute mastery of the detail of parliamentary activity and legislative change, where his approach is encyclopaedic.
I agree with the other reviewer, Ensor is a pleasure to read, his attention to his material is unfailing.
Brilliant book in a brilliant series. I couldn't afford the new edition but this copy, being in very good condition is a very good buy. To me it is an absorbing read. Highly recommended to anyone in any way interested in this period of history. It arrived well packed and very quickly. Thank you to all concerned.
Sir Robert Ensor (1877-1958) was educated at Winchester School and Balliol College Oxford, later becoming Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College Oxford. Despite of, or because of, this illustrious academic career, like a number of his highly educated contemporaries Ensor had decidedly left-wing views. His literary style was also sharply tuned from his journalistic career, where held such jobs as Lead Writer at the Manchester Guardian. He was even, amongst all this activity, a qualified lawyer.
So we are not talking here of 'just' an Oxford Don closeted in the vaulted towers and 'dreaming spires' of Oxford. Robert Ensor held down 'real' jobs, and saw the 'real' world. The wide panoply of skills that Ensor clearly possesses are put to very good use in this successful edition of the Oxford History of England series. All the wide-ranging topics in this crucial period of English history are covered and expertly explained. In particular, the domestic political issues of the period are very well covered, all being conducted in such an assured way that the reader is able to absorb, and even enjoy, the subject material with ease. Perhaps surprisingly, Ensor's left-wing views do not cloud the political debates and issues of the period, indeed his non-partisan approach is eminently commendable (with the possible exception of his treatment of Lord Salisbury, as noted elsewhere).
In summary, this book will be invaluable to all readers, whether students of history or the general reader alike, and is highly recommended.
Ensor's book is a masterly account of the period and is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the period. The book was published in the 1930s when enough evidence had reached the public domain to let him form a thoughtful view of events and causes based on all the essential, relevant facts. This is combined with a lively, personal experience of the period. Yes, he is partial but who living through most of this period would not. Personal involvement just adds vivacity to the narrative quality of the account.