After the Victorians: The Decline of Britain in the World

ISBN: 0312425155
ISBN 13: 9780312425159
By: A.N. Wilson

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About this book

A Guardian Favorite Book of the Year A. N. Wilson's landmark sequel to The Victorians is a colorful, panoramic portrait of the era that began with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and extended to the dawn of the Cold War in the early 1950s. Expertly mapping the connections between military, political, social, and cultural history, After the Victorians is an incisive chronicle of Great Britain's decline. Wilson delivers a timely analysis of imperialism and its discontents and a fresh account of the birth pangs of the modern world.

Reader's Thoughts


After the Victorians is a wonderfully entertaining book. Wilson is an excellent writer and is able to bring to life the myriad figures and dramatic events of British history in the first part of the 21st century.That being said the book does have it's flaws. It's fairly unforgivable that Wilson refers to President Harry Truman as lawyer, when in fact he was the only 20th century President NOT to earn a college degree. Missing this detail could be seen as a minor mistake, but it belies the general lack of research Wilson appears to have undertaken on the other great powers of World War Two. He admits that he basis his entire account of the decision to drop the atomic bomb on just one source, and casually condemns the act as a war crime. While doing this he glosses over the very complex issue of whether an ultimatum was really given to the Japanese, or whether their was any reason to believe that Hirohito would have surrendered under any other circumstances other than the ones he surrendered underI'm not trying to argue for or against the argument he is making, it just seems that he could have put more research into these areas, and given credence to other viewpoints. That being said this is a book about Britain, and the issue of the atomic bomb is peripheral to his subject.This is an excellent read and I recommend it to anyone interested in British or 20th century history.


941.0843 Wil

Gareth Evans

Not anywhere as good as his stunning Victorians and rather put in the shade by the more detailed histories of the period. Nevertheless always entertaining.


Dear A.N. Wilson, I don't agree with even half of what you say, but I am nuts about the way you write history and biography. I am sort of in love with you. Thank you.Tara


A fascinating, opinionated history of Britain from 1900 to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.



Lynne Stringer

This book was generally pretty good, although not as compelling as some other history books I've read. It was still interesting enough, though.


Extremely biased, but an interesting and informative read. Few books on English history during this period would include a chapter on the birth of the Times crossword puzzle. An example of his bias: I found his accusations of homosexuality distasteful. I understand many in that period did cover up their sexual preference, but to accuse someone of being gay with no evidence and then go on to decribe the long, happy, faithful and consumate marriage he had with his wife is extremely strange. It gets to the point where he describes Dietrich Bonhoeffer as heterosexual with a tone of surprise. Although I understand his motive in correcting individual histories, A.N Wilson overcorrects in this regard.


Very entertaining, apart from the times he takes a rather cavalier attitude to the facts and lets his own personal bias hold sway.


Really interesting.

Christopher Sutch

I found this sequel to _The Victorians_ not quite as good as its predecessor. This is perhaps because I'm bothered by Wilson's political stance and willingness to overlook established facts (or to get them wrong) in the greater service of his allegiance to a constitutional monarchy as the best form of government. The areas where this is most clear for me (because I am a specialist in these areas of history) is Wilson's acceptance of Younghusband's figures for the number of Tibetans massacred by his troops in 1904 (severely underestimated, if not deliberately misleading); his assertion that Younghusband was "hurt" by the encounter (perhaps this is stated in his official correspondence, but anyone reading his numerous later works would come to a far different conclusion); and his interpretation of Tenzing's and Hillary's co-ascent of Everest (Wilson's reading is very traditional and ignores the anti-imperial, radical message attempted by these two--at least at first--when they refused to say which man, the white Commonwealth climber or his Sherpa climbing partner, reached the summit first). Wilson also several times states a belief that "communism" as performed in the Soviet Union was Marxist and a fundamentally different economic system that Britian's or the the United States's, a personal pet peeve of mine: the USSR in its early days was certainly Leninist, but was not socialist in any way. Lenin quashed true worker's soviets early on and the country's economic system was capitalist after 1920 (and perhaps as early as 1918); it had to be in order to continue trade with the world for food and needed supplies. It was a totalitarian capitalism, in which the state owned the means of production, but it was capitalist not Marxian socialist. All in all I'm a little disappointed in this book, but perhaps it's just an example of how difficult it is to write histories of the more recent past.


Perhaps this book should be titled "The Last of the Victorians" since it ends with Winston Churchill. Describing the downfall of the British Empire through the two World Wars and the Great Depression this book shows how history and culture in the fading empire interacted. Much was muddled and America has inherited many of the fudges of diplomacy and border making that troubles today's world. However, most of the time the leaders were trying to do the right thing even if it ran against England's own self preservation. Really a fine history.

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