The Victorian Age, 1815-1914

The Victorian Age, 1815-1914

The Victorian Age, 1815-1914

The Victorian Age, 1815-1914

Excerpt

The scope and complexity of nineteenth-century history is so great that a writer attempting the 'middle ground' between the textbook and the compendious work of the professional historian is faced with peculiar difficulties. He has to present a complete picture on a highly selective basis. There is room for nothing but what he considers essential. Everything else must be rigidly and remorselessly excluded. Within these limits, which he must prescribe for himself, he has to marshal his data, and weave the strands of his story into a connected theme without distorting the proportions of events or characters.

Great Britain was the first country to attempt the adventure of an industrial society. This adventure was undertaken by a people with an old and agreed politico-social system, developed under conditions deriving from the pursuit of agriculture and commerce. They had perforce to reconcile two claims. The new, progressive revolutionary forces were recognised, identified and gradually shaped inside the existing politico-social fabric, which was itself modified, developed and changed to harmonise with the new needs and values.

While men were slowly mastering this problem at home, the inventions of the Industrial Revolution were narrowing the boundaries of the world, enormously increasing the power of the great nations for good and evil, and so making the relations of Great Britain with the Continent closer, and of graver moment than ever before. In 1815 Great Britain assumed a responsibility for European affairs which she has never since been able to repudiate, though more than once she has evinced a strong desire to do so.

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