Gillian Tindall

A River Runs Through It

Victorian London: The Life of a City 1840–1870

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Weidenfeld & Nicolson 353pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Thames: England’s River

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Little, Brown 330pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

We are living in a golden age of social history, with professional historians, novelists and amateur genealogists all eagerly excavating the past. Since the seventeenth century there have been select groups of antiquarians, but most people in all the eras before our own were genuinely too much occupied – with war and other tumults, with privation and personal hazards, with the stagnant grind of poverty or with the exhilaration of hard-won gains – to empathise much with their ancestors or to explore the buried layers of their own familiar habitats. Only now, in the period of relative peace and gluttonous prosperity that has been ours since the late 1950s, have large numbers of us tried to summon from oblivion all the neglected generations lying behind us with an almost yearning concern to know ‘How was it for you?’.

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