After the Victorians
The Decline of Britain in the World
By A. N. Wilson
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374101985, 624pp.)
Publication Date: November 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The distinguished historian A.N. Wilson has charted, in vivid detail, Britain's rise to world dominance, a tale of how one small island nation came to be the mightiest, richest country on earth, reigning over much of the globe. Now in his much anticipated sequel to the classic The Victorians, he describes how in little more than a generation Britain's power and influence in the world would virtually dissolve.
In After the Victorians, Wilson presents a panoramic view of an era, stretching from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the dawn of the cold war in the early 1950s. He offers riveting accounts of the savagery of World War I and the world-altering upheaval of the Communist Revolution. He explains Britain's role in shaping the destiny of the Middle East. And he casts a bright new light on the World War II years: Britain played a central role in defeating Germany but at a severe cost. The nation would emerge from the war bankrupt and fatally weakened, sidelined from world politics, while America would assume the mantle of dominant world power, facing off against the Soviet Union in the cold war. Wilson's perspective is not confined to the trenches of the battlefield and the halls of parliament: he also examines the parallel story of the beginnings of Modernism-he visits the novelists, philosophers, poets, and painters to see what they reveal about the activities of the politicians, scientists, and generals.
Blending military, political, social, and cultural history of the most dramatic kind, A.N. Wilson offers an absorbing portrait of the decline of one of the world's great powers. The result is a fresh account of the birth pangs of the modern world, as well as a timely analysis of imperialism and its discontents.
A. N. Wilson, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is the author of many critially acclaimed books, including The Victorians, Paul, and My Name is Legion.
Praise for The Victorians: "The book he was born to write…Paints an immensely rich, funny readable portrait of the Britain that is being done to death…The sheer range of Wilson’s knowledge and interests are wittily displayed in a series of learned mini-essays that delight…Argumentative, thought-provoking and very well-written." —Andrew Roberts, Daily Telegraph
"A.N. Wilson’s latest book is a historical mixed mezze, a 37-chapter array of pen-portraits, quarryings from diaries, snapshots from memoirs, quirky insights and acute observations which combine to form a surprisingly satisfying whole…Wilson’s special skills as a literary critic are the pre-eminent qualities which elevate his history above any potential rival…While many academics are practicing the historical equivalent of keyhole surgery, the reader still yearns for the historian as general practitioner, and that is where Wilson excels." —Michael Gove, The Times
"Popular history today needs attitude and that is what A.N. Wilson gives it, spicing it with personal prejudice, irony and wit. He is out to challenge received opinions, and to provoke disagreement and reconsideration. He did so with his compendious volume The Victorians. Now he does it entertainingly and perceptively with the first half of the 20th century." —Peter Lewis, Daily Mail
"Exceptionally well written…Wilson has the kind of cleverness that scintillates…Vigorous, lively and winningly eccentric." —Sam Leith, Spectator
"Readers who enjoyed the last volume will not be disappointed. After the Victorians has exactly the same compelling blend of political gossip, literary sketches and deft character portraits, given further spice by Wilson’s own unorthodox and often utterly outrageous opinions…The sheer quality of his cracking prose…There is something simply irresistible about After The Victorians." —Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph
"A.N. Wilson is a literary virtuoso…Each chapter could be a synopsis for a fascinating volume in its own right." —Roger Lewis, Daily Express
"Wilson—an estimable novelist and historian—has written a splendid sequel to The Victorians, describing the vanished world of his "parents’ generation" between 1901 and 1953…Encompassing everything from high politics through middlebrow pursuits to low culture, this book displays Wilson's magpie-ish talent for the telling detail, the amusing anecdote and the wry observation to delightful effect." —Publisher’s Weekly
"Andrew Wilson must now step forward as the Macaulay de nos jours: like his eminent predecessor, he writes beautifully, with a strong narrative drive which carries the reader forward. The two men also embody the liberal assumptions of their respective days…No review can do justice to the richness, liveliness and sheer fun of this book. Wilson has written one of the books of the year." —John Charmley, The Guardian
"As a sequel to The Victorians it is intended to share that outstanding book’s aim of being a portrait of an age rather than a formal history. It succeeds brilliantly as both…It is a page turner, lambent with fascination…One of the best things about the book is the use Wilson makes of the period’s reflection in its fecund literature. And, indeed, his masterly piece of history is a work of literature too." —Financial Times
"Whether he's discussing religious doubt or cholera, the Crystal Palace or Darwinism, pre-Raphaelite painting or the Crimean War, Wilson sweeps the reader along in this magnificant contribution to popular scholarship." —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"The ideal conductor of a guided tour through British politics, society and culture as it displayed itself during the reign of Queen Victoria...Incapable of writing a dull sentence, and appearing to have read everything of pertinence to his vast subject, Wilson never shrinks from fully engaging his materials." —William H. Pritchard, Chicago Tribune
"Filled with more laughs, triumphs, stories and characters than a Dickens tale."—The Associated Press
"A vivid portrait of Victorian Britain and Britons...the kind of book that turns people on to history." —The Economist