Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

History Master Longs for Lost Empire Ideals; Churchill Fan Offers Lively Comment as He Wipes Dust off the Shelves of 1900-1950s Britain

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

History Master Longs for Lost Empire Ideals; Churchill Fan Offers Lively Comment as He Wipes Dust off the Shelves of 1900-1950s Britain

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL BURLEIGH

NON-FICTION

After The Victorians

AN Wilson

A N WILSON is a historian and novelist of such industry and fluency that it may repay thinking about what is distinctive about how he writes history.

After The Victorians contains several pointers to how he conceives the subject.

Although Britain in the halfcentury between the death of Victoria and the accession of Elizabeth II is his primary focus, Wilson's is never a provincial perspective. The reader finds insights from the US, the Indian subcontinent, Russia, Germany and the Middle East.

He is also convinced that a novelist or poet can express something true about the age, so this book abounds with portraits of major literary figures: Henry James, George Orwell and Anthony Powell.

While many historians have become "unmusical" about religion, especially if their creed is Marxism, the author of God's Funeral gives as much attention to the traditional faith as he does to science.

He is not afraid to work by poetic association, exploring crossword puzzles, murder mysteries and Thomas The Tank Engine.

Wilson eschews the sub-Weberian refusal to make explicit moral judgments. A generation of Bloomsbury artistes are "the silly generation", while wartime dictators are dismissed as gangsters. …

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