Review: Nineteenth-Century Britain by Jeremy Black

Nineteenth-Century Britain
Nineteenth-Century Britain by Jeremy Black

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A half-decent overview of 19th century Britain that is sorely let down by its shoddy editing and its inconsistent complexity.

There are many grammar, punctuation and formatting mistakes in this book which, at their best, are aggravating, and at their worst, completely change what I supposed was the intended meaning of a passage or make it unreadable. Unfortunately this isn’t an exception, I found half a dozen examples of it in every single chapter.

What’s more, I have no idea who this book is aimed at. In previous Palgrave Foundation books I’ve read the content has been consistently aimed at A level/early university students but this book was all over the place. In some parts it was simplistic enough to be GCSE level and in others, I had no idea what was going on or what point the author was trying to get across due to all the technical language – this was especially the case when the author spoke of other historians. On top of this, the book was also quite repetitive and, though necessary to keep it within the lines of a brief overview, it swept across important issues. For instance, the Irish Question chapter was really lacking which completely undermined the Anglo-Irish relations of the period. The ‘Into the 20th century’ chapter was also a disappointment as talking about Liberal reforms would’ve fit in nearly with the author’s concluding thesis.

On the plus side, there was a good selection of primary sources included which was immensely helpful and most of them were accompanied with some analysis which is useful across all stages of studying history.

Previous books that I’ve read by Jeremy Black (namely, ‘Studying History’) have been far better than this so I’m going to chalk this book up as a bad egg. For anyone who hasn’t read it and is a history student, ‘Studying History’, also published by Palgrave, is a brilliant book and a great help to beginning a history degree.

Also – don’t be swayed by how long I took to read this! I dipped in and out of it for the best part of a year and then read it cover to cover over a couple of weeks as exam prep. The chapter summaries are fairly helpful for this!

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