Corfield’s grasp and authority are evident throughout. Despite making occasional reference to modern intellectual heavyweights such as Gramsci or Habermas, she maintains a lightness of phrase that makes her book never less than enthralling, even in the midst of a long list of Georgian achievements. For it is the deeds rather than the misdeeds by which Corfield is most taken. While she never shies from the horrors of slavery, for example, her interest is in those who helped abolish it ... It is a fascinating book.
Corfield...provides a more accurate, more nuanced and altogether more interesting view of her subject [than standard history] ... Corfield is particularly interesting on the quintessentially British subject of class ... The book’s great strength apart from its underlying scholarship is that Corfield is adept at switching from the general to the particular ... Most chapters end with short codas entitled 'Time-Shift: Then and Now', which Corfield describes rather clunkily ... they are at best a distraction that might have been better accommodated in an appendix. Although the source notes are admirable, the index has many irritating omissions. Overall, though, this book is a delight, stuffed with good things ... The rest, as they say, is history.
Corfield’s book is full of such intriguing little nuggets ... Frustratingly, though, she stubbornly shuns any hint of narrative or character. Because the book is entirely thematic, we don’t really get a sense of change over time: one quotation might come from the 1690s, the next from the 1780s. Potentially exciting moments come and go in a few words: the Seven Years’ War, arguably the world’s first global conflict and a pivotal moment in the making of the British Empire, gets half a sentence. The titanic characters of the age, from Dr Johnson to Charles James Fox, are mentioned in passing, if at all. And even some of her intriguingly strange little stories are thrown almost casually away, leaving the reader panting for more.