David Newsome's monumental history, The Victorian World Picture, takes a good, long look at the Victorian age and what distinguishes it so prominently in the history of both England and the world. The Victorian World Picture presents a vivid canvas of the Victorians as they saw themselves and as the rest of the world saw them. Situated between the watershed of the French Revolution in 1789 and the fin-de-siecle, the Victorians' world was one of rapid change. Whether they greeted it with hope and exhilaration or with mounting apprehension, there was general acknowledgment among contemporary thinkers and commentators that they were destined to live in uncommonly stirring times. The Victorian intellectual world in full bloom counted among its luminaries Dickens, Carlyle, Eliot, Arnold, Ruskin, Southey, and Wordsworth. But it was also a time of unprecedented population growth, massive industrialization, and an acceleration in the pace of life due in part to improved transportation, especially the advent of the railway. Darwinian theory shook people's religious beliefs and foreign competition threatened industry and agriculture. The defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy had created profound unease and political tension that lasted into Queen Victoria's reign. Even the books that the Victorians read and their interpretations of history reveal a conflict between unbounded belief in progress and a nostalgic yearning for the values of the past. The transformation of the world of the Victorians was social, cultural, intellectual, economic and political - in a sense, earth-shaking. David Newsome weaves all these strands of Victorian life into a compelling evocation of the spirit of a fascinating time that laid the foundation for the modern age.
Newsome... has provided an elegantly written survey of the Victorian World, a daunting task that he handles with authority... the author does make intriguing parallels between contemporary society and that world of a century ago.
The Daily Telegraph
With grace and tact [Newsome] uses the best of the specialists' research to show a Victorian Britain which is patchier than the one we have fallen into imagining.