Historical Atlas of Great Britain
The editors of this new Historical Atlas of Great Britain are to be congratulated for having succeeded brilliantly in bringing to completion an ambitious project (and thereby meeting a real need) within the compass of a book of a mere 223 thick and glossy pages. lt is a comprehensive survey of British history which both carries the torch untiringly from c 4000 BC to the present day and does justice to the great (but frequently neglected) claims of Wales, Scotland and Ireland and of Britain's possessions and dependencies overseas. The first (and much the larger) part covers political, the second social and economic history. Each of the eight chapters deals with a theme (for example, 'Power, Peace and Prosperity, 1815-1914) which is treated chronologically and independently; cross-referencing is avoided (although redundancy is in fact cleverly kept to a minimum), but the reader is invited to reflect on the interdependence of the various elements of history.
The thirty-nine expert contributors ensure that, while much simplification and selection is inevitable, this book faithfully embodies the results of the best modern scholarship. Economic imperatives are given precedence over the whims of powerful individuals, and we are offered frequent glimpses into the secret but nonetheless real history of the lower orders. Maps and diagrams bring home vividly and economically in the space of a few square centimetres the significance of statistics collected with much labour; outstanding in this respect are those showing the distribution of Protestant martyrs in the reign of Mary, and of industrial unrest in the period 1830-32, and that showing the results of the Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840s. These mildly avant garde tendencies find an occasional reflection in the language of the text (which nowhere aims at elegance): 'Representative peers were elected by a process which from the start was totally rigged by the government' smacks somewhat of Dave Spart.
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