This text looks at the people, ideas and events between the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Second Reform Act of 1867. From "John Arthur Roebuck and the Crimean War", and "Samuel Smiles and the Gospel of Work" to "Thomas Hughes and the Public Schools" and "Benjanmin Disraeli and the Leap in the Dark", Asa Briggs provides an assessment of Victorian achievements; and in doing so conjures up an enviable picture of the progress and independence of the last century.
"For expounding this theme, this interaction of event and personality, Mr. Briggs is abundantly and happily endowed. He is always readable, often amusing, never facetious. He is widely read and widely interested. He has a sound historic judgment, and an unfailing sense for what is significant in the historic sequence and what is merely topical. . . . Above all, he is in sympathy with the age of which he is writing."—Times Literary Supplement