The Victorians by A.N. Wilson

The Victorians

The nineteenth century saw greater changes than any previous era: in the ways nations and societies were organized, in scientific knowledge, and in nonreligious intellectual development. The crucial players in this drama were the British, who invented both capitalism and imperialism and were incomparably the richest, most important investors in the developing world. In this sense, England's position has strong resemblances to America's in the lat...

Details The Victorians

TitleThe Victorians
Release DateFeb 17th, 2004
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Historical, Victorian, European Literature, British Literature

Reviews The Victorians

  • Caroline
    It's quite difficult to know how to describe this book. It's non-fiction, it's history, of course it's history, but somehow...not quite history as one might expect it. And yet if you asked me to put my finger on why this isn't a typical history book I think I would struggle. It's about a particular time and place; it's written in a chronological fashion; the usual suspects of Victorian history make an appearance; it focuses on politics, the monar...
  • Nick
    If you only ever read one book on the Victorians, this is the one to read. Wilson doesn't invent anything new; the categories are familiar. We start with the bad old England that Victoria inherited, work our way through the Chartists, Peel and the Corn Laws, the terrible 40s, the Italian influence, doubt, Mesmerism, Albert, the Great Exhibition, the Reform Bills, the Crimean War, Afghanistan, and on and on. Wilson is a wonderful storyteller, and ...
  • Stenwjohnson
    Where do you begin if you want to read a broad, deep, erudite overview of a large historical topic? Usually, it requires looking to older scholarship; “big” histories are rarely attempted by academics these days. Next stop is the unfairly maligned genre of “popular” history, which relies on the synthesis of secondary sources and is unburdened by the need for complete academic originality.That was my dilemma when I first picked up A.N.Wils...
  • Maryanne
    I decided to read this only one chapter per day so that I could really enjoy the wonderful writing and the bits that are not normally included in books about the Victorians .Glad to see my friend Dizzy came out well he was always my favourite, unlike the patronizing, sermonizing Gladstone.Nice to see the ladies of the time getting kudos too....Maryanne Evans still remains one of my favourite authors along with Oscar Wilde.Well worth reading and j...
  • Duncan
    A fascinating period of history. I like most of Wilson's work and this did not disappoint.
  • Christopher Sutch
    This is a very good read, is very well-researched, and provides a wealth of information on the Victorians and their social context. It was very hard to put down, despite its massive length. One of the problems Wilson has, though, is his annoying tendency to either misread or misunderstand Marx. This is due, I think, in large part because of his sympathy for more British forms of socialism (based in Robert Owens). It's clear Wilson has read Marx, ...
  • Steve
    I would of rated this higher, but the last third of the book was a chore to finish. It was like Wilson lost his focus (which, admittedly, is difficult given the broad subject), and started speculating more with various what-ifs. In a history book, a little bit of that can go a long way. In addition, the subject matter is so broad (the Victorians) that Wilson was obligated to cover areas I could care less about. As long as he was dealing with writ...
  • Paige
    I didn’t finish this book although I did think it was decent. There is some really good information in here, but it was kind of slow going and I had a lot of other stuff going on. My main complaint is that Wilson assumes the reader already know a lot of the figures he’s talking about. This would probably be the case if I was raised and went to school in England, but as an ignorant US citizen, I kept going, “Who? What’s that??” And then ...
  • DeAnna Knippling
    Hmmmm....for the best book about the Victorians I've read, it's not the first I'd recommend or the highest I've rated. I'd start with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, unless you're already big into history.This book is erudite, so much so that I missed a lot of things that the author assumed I knew, and the chapters jumped around in a way that I sometimes couldn't follow. Nevertheless, I feel like I have a good sense of who the Victorians were and h...
  • Aaron Eames
    An astoundingly comprehensive audit of the era; sprawling, expansive and imperial, touching all bases, cause célèbre (Chartism) to celebrated cause (The Boer War), succès de scandale (On the Origin of Species, perhaps) to successful scandal (The Fall of Parnell, perhaps). Wilson, elsewhere biographer of Darwin and Queen Victoria, emphasises personalities, those individuals whose lives, words and works mediate their period. His pen-portraits of...
  • Webcowgirl
    An excellent overview of a historical era I had much to learn about. Good foundation for steampunk lit. A bit too fragmented, though.
  • Peter Ellwood
    An absorbing account of the Victorian era. I am so glad I resisted my quite strong inclination in the early part of the book – to abandon it as a load of grump. So much so that I wish he would go back and rewrite those early chapters. If you are like me – persist, it does eventually repay the effort!For me, the part dealing with the first ten years or so is in quite marked contrast to the remainder. Perhaps it is the actual content: perhaps t...
  • Eric Pape
    Well written and worth the time but I would have liked a little more about the lot of the common folk.
  • Tanis
    I didn't actually finish this book, although it was very interesting and well written I just wasn't in the mood for a factual book.
  • Mark
    A very enjoyable thematic account of the Victorian age, which required work to master but was enormously rewarding once completed.
  • Daniel Kukwa
    No single book will ever manage to cover every single aspect of the 19th century or the Victorian age...but this book comes as close as humanly possible. It's a near-perfect snapshot -- it manages to give a taste of the politics, the attitudes, the conflicts, and the society without ever outstaying its welcome. In fact, using many short chapters, dancing from topic to topic before the reader becomes bored, and a simple chronological order all res...
  • Antonio Nunez
    Wilson's book is best taken in small doses, rather like his articles in London's Daily Telegraph. The book is a huge panoramic survey of the years of Victoria's reign (1837-1901). It is mainly chronological and organized around large themes such as art, novelists, poetry, the Empire, politics, social mores. It is a bit of curate's egg (partly good, partly bad). The actual curate's egg cartoon was published in Punch on 9 November 1895, and so the ...
  • Todd Stockslager
    Review title: When the World changed Imagine one of the Victorians described by Wilson born in 1850 and living to 1945, a plausible scenario echoing some of the historical characters described by Wilson. He (as Wilson documents, public characters of the era were almost exclusively male) would have witnessed in his living memory the American Civil War, the European revolutions of 1870, the Boer War, the Spanish-American War, the Russo-Japanese War...
  • Lucinda
    “People, not abstract ideas, make history.” This historical book peels back the layers to reveal the truth of this poignant moment within time, in all its realism from ‘the horse’s mouth’ (the people who made the era). Opening this book you are transported back in time to a real world, which ignites all senses so as you are able to touch, smell, hear and see the environment before you in full vivid color and authenticity. The stunning a...
  • Gavin
    Witty and sloppy synopsis. It is neither materialist nor idealist: he locates power in single people. Or, in anecdotes about people really. (Is that still materialism? Funny kind if so.) He has such a huge throbbing agenda - e.g. his caricature of Bentham, his bizarre claim that capitalism suppresses individuality, rather than being totally, totally dependent on it - but I didn't resent it because he is so patent about it and because he is funny:...
  • Owen
    A one-volume history of Victorian Britain, which looks at it through people and personalities as much as through a narrative of events. A humorous book, graced with an intelligence and humanity. I really enjoyed it.Some might, slightly snobbishly or with a desire to damn with faint praise, call this a ‘popular history’. It is that, but is much the better for it. The reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901, was a time of unbelievably rapid ...
  • Marianne
    I wasn't able to finish "The Victorians" but was sufficiently intrigued by much of the information to slog through a fourth of the book. The author's style of writing doesn't lend itself to easy reading. Long, convoluted sentences were a challenge to understand. I don't consider myself lacking when it comes to having a good vocabulary but I had to look up many, many words when context didn't give a clue to their meaning. I say this with all humil...
  • Amy
    I was so excited to read this book. I dove into the first few chapters, reading deeply, then I realised I couldn't remember what Benthamism was or how Malthusiam was different. I practically needed a cheat sheet to keep up with all the names. It was like reading A Song of Ice and Fire, there are 1000 characters and terrible things kept happening. I felt that significant events could have been more clearly explained. I don't know how the Irish rec...
  • Tammy
    I found this book somewhat unsatisfying, due mostly to the fact that the scope is quite large (the Victorian era ran for more than 60 years) but the book provided only the briefest of overviews of people and events of the period. This would not have been a problem if the book were an introduction to the era, but many topics are presented as though the reader were presumed to have the rudimentary knowledge. I found myself having to stop repeatedly...
  • Jill Hutchinson
    I can't quite decide about this book. There were sections that were fascinating and others that were dry as dust. Be had better know your British history because the author throws names around with no explanation as to who they are/were. Granted it is difficult to cover all issues and events that happened during the long reign of Queen Victoria but some of the chapters cover subjects that seemed incidental to the larger picture. S...
  • Polly Rosenstein
    I loved this book. Although not all of the segues were smooth to me and sometimes the author spoke of people and events that he assumed the reader was familiar with, I found this book to be a fascinating depiction of Victorian life in Britain. Wilson gives a good description of the upper class as well as the abject poverty of the lower class, the scientific, intellectual, religious and philosophical developments, the move from an agrarian economy...
  • Tony
    This book covers many facets of Victorian times of which I suspect many people are unfamiliar. so in that respect I found it enlightening. However, it was hard going and could only be tackled in small doses. A major contribution to the Victorian era was the emergence of engineering on a grand scale. Granted much of it occurred before Victorian times in the early 19th century but to omit any mention at all of the greatest engineer of the times, Br...
  • Ian
    A broad overview of the Victorian age it crams so much into one volume I was at times lost in the attempt to follow the connections the author was trying to make. It leapt from seemingly unconnected events, ideas or personages to others without a clear through-line. The one recurring theme which would make an interesting study (perhaps there already is one) is the question of why was there no revolution or attempted one in Victorian England when ...
  • Diane
    This book goes through the Victorian era decade by decade. The author's main focus is on providing short biographies of individuals, mostly from Victorian Britain. On the positive side, the author writes about many artists, writers, and other individuals in the arts who are not as well known these days, and brings their experiences to life. On the negative side, I thought the author was very condescending towards his subjects overall, and the boo...