I’m a fan of sweeping accounts of history, those that cover the big, strategic picture. This book is one such. A. N Wilson’s work on the Victorians is another.
Hattersley has an engaging style, and kept me interested through the whole book. After a few chapters covering the whole time period (from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914), each of the chapters address different pertinent topics.
Where the work fell down for me, was that towards the end of each chapter, the work got bogged down in rather too much detail, and I lost my focus and had to skim a page or two. This can happen in some military histories, when writers sometimes include what I consider far too much detail about actual battles and movements of troops on the ground.
I was particularly pleased to read about the creation of the Daily Mail, and to see how little has changed there since Alfred Harmsworth’s day, and to see Churchill (central to so much of the first half of British twentieth century history) treated without rancour.
Overall this was excellent: easy to read, informative, entertaining. I learnt much. Mr Hattersley’s politics, whilst implicit in the way he wrote about certain issues, were never on his sleeve, so to speak, but rather, suffused the book with gentle compassion and understanding.