It takes just a few pages for Peter Ackroyd to let readers know he won’t be getting weepy over Victorian England. His clear-eyed assessment of the later stages of the British Empire includes an early nod to an era of humor and sadness, spirituality and modesty — and a warning to those who might romanticize that past ... Over the course of 400 pages, Ackroyd proves the point without leaving room for debate. Nineteenth-century England is often an interesting and exciting place to be, but pleasant isn’t a word that comes to mind. Neither does comfortable ... Dominion is Ackroyd’s fifth volume in his ambitious biography of England. Spanning 1815 to 1901, the book sets the table for a final volume covering the 20th Century and the early years of the 21st. His works include 18 works of fiction and more than 30 works of nonfiction, including biographies of Chaucer, Poe, Shakespeare, and J.M.W. Turner, among others. Ackroyd remains a graceful, stylish, and prolific writer as well as an attentive historian.
In the fifth volume of his comprehensive, masterfully conceived, and evenly written history of England—which reaches from the foundation of the English kingdom to, at this point in his survey, the innovations underscoring the dominion of the seas that characterized the Victorian Era—Ackroyd sees that 'change' was in the air and, further, that the groundswell urge for change was focused on political reform ... With a large cast of historic figures, a chronicling of the coalescence of the middle class and changing labor concerns, the rise of secularism, and the expanse of the British empire, Ackroyd’s deep and broad canvas is rich in informative details and will appeal to all readers interested in British history while especially pleasing those fascinated by this era.
This fast-paced fifth volume of a popular history of England by Ackroyd—a novelist, broadcaster, biographer, and poet—covers 1815–1901, a time dominated by the long reign of Queen Victoria, characterized by the growth of the British Empire, and marked by such socioeconomically transformative inventions as the steam engine, railroad, and telegraph ... Ackroyd devotes much of his best chapter to the one major English war in Europe during this period, that in Crimea against Russia in the 1850s ... Ackroyd largely ignores the lives and achievements of non-royal English women and how the Irish potato famine of the 1840s affected English life. These omissions aside, this is an informative and lively look at early modern England.