To live in nineteenth-century Britain was to experience an astonishing and unprecedented series of changes. Cities grew vast; there were revolutions in transportation, communication, science, and work--all while a growing religious skepticism rendered the intellectual landscape increasingly unrecognizable. It was an exhilarating time, and as a result, most of the countries in the world that experienced these changes were racked by political and social unrest. Britain, however, maintained a stable polity at home, and as a result it quickly found itself in a position of global leadership.
In this major new work, leading historian David Cannadine has created a bold, fascinating new interpretation of nineteenth-century Britain. Britain was a country that saw itself at the summit of the world and, by some measures, this was indeed true. It had become the largest empire in history: its political stability positioned it as the leader of the new global economy and allowed it to construct the largest navy ever built. And yet it was also a society permeated with doubt, fear, and introspection. Repeatedly, politicians and writers felt themselves to be staring into the abyss and what is seen as an era of irritating self-belief was in fact obsessed with its own fragility, whether as a great power or as a moral force. Victorious Century is a comprehensive and extraordinarily stimulating history--its author catches the relish, humor and staginess of the age, but also the dilemmas faced by Britain's citizens, ones we remain familiar with today.