This readable introduction to all the main themes and changes in British society between the late eighteenth century and the end of the 20th century is an ideal volume for anyone embarking on a study of this complex subject. The author considers the extent and nature of Britain's relative economic decline since the late-Victorian period and examines imperial expansion up to 1914 and the trend towards decolonization after the second world war, culminating in an evaluation of Britain's dilemmas at the end of the 20th century.
Pugh (Univ. Newcastle upon Tyne), a widely published scholar of British history, wrote this survey for Italian university students. His goal was to make his subject understandable to non-English speakers, primarily by writing short, focused chapters with minimal assumptions about the readers' knowledge. The book has 29 chapters, each nine pages or fewer. Its positive reception at the University of Rome prompted publication of this English edition. The author's assumptions make the book more accessible than most surveys, but it is understandably light on details. Pugh has to make more generalizations than in a typical survey history, and while he has the scholarly authority to do so, the result smacks of history lite. He's uncertain about his own assessment of recent events, and the book breaks no new scholarly turf. It's hard to tell where the book's audience will be in the English-speaking world; it's probably too superficial for college students but a little too demanding for high school or casual reading. Perhaps an alternate selection for public libraries?--Robert C. Moore, Raytheon Electronic Systems, Sudbury, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.