British History, 1815-1914

British History, 1815-1914

British History, 1815-1914

British History, 1815-1914


This fully revised and updated edition of Norman McCord's authoritative introduction to nineteenth century British history has been extended to cover the period up to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The nineteenth and early twentieth century saw the transformation of Britain from a predominantly rural to a largely urban society with an economy based upon manufacturing, finance, and trade, and from a society governed mainly by a landed aristocracy to what was increasingly amass democracy. The authors chart the development of a modern state equipped with a large and expanding bureaucracy, the expansion of overseas territories into one of the world's greatest empires, and changes in religion, social attitudes, and culture. The book divides the era into four chronological periods, with chapters on the political background, administrative development, and social, economic, and cultural changes in each period. Exploring major themes such as the massive increase inpopulation, the question of class, the scope of state activity, and the development of consumerism, leisure, and entertainment, and including a select bibliography and biographical appendix, this updated new edition provides the ultimate introduction to British history between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War.


The period covered by this book has probably attracted more attention from historians than any other. This is scarcely surprising, for in a variety of historical aspects those decades were of cardinal importance. They brought the development of one of the world’s greatest empires and the evolution of the world’s first great industrial society, and they still offer to the student the engrossing spectacle of a decentralized rural society facing enormous and unprecedented pressures of economic and social change coupled with accelerating population growth—and facing those difficulties with notably little internal conflict and bloodshed. In the development of government and administration too, those decades were of crucial importance in the transformation of Britain from a littlegoverned nation to a modern State equipped with large and expanding agencies of official activity.

This period also remains a focus of argument and disagreement among historians, partly because of its imagined close relevance to our own society. The assumption of close connection has led to the frequent use of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century history as a convenient source of ammunition with which to fight our own political and ideological controversies.

The synthesis offered here cannot be complete, for the volume of writing on the economic, social, and political history of this period is too great for any one volume to cover it in its entirety. Inevitably, much of the account relies on the published work of many writers. In some cases, as for example, to Professor Norman Gash, Dr Boyd Hilton, Dr E. H. Hunt, and Dr David Philips, the debt is a considerable one. We hope that our borrowings have been adequately acknowledged in the notes and apologize if in any instances we have inadvertently omitted to ensure so.

The terminal date for the first edition of this book, published in 1991, was set at 1906 and we are grateful to Oxford University Press for extending the coverage of the volume to 1914. We consider this a more appropriate termination which enables us to take British history up to the brink of the First World War. We have also endeavoured in this revised edition to take account of at least some of the many works on different aspects of the period published in the last fifteen years. The new end date has necessarily involved changes to the organization of the later sections of the book which is now divided into four main chronological parts, roughly 1815–30, 1830–50, 1850–80, and 1880–1914. Within each the first chapter offers a succinct political narrative, the second a discussion of developments in government and administration, and a third surveys economic and social developments. An argument could readily be advanced for reversing this . . .

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