Can you freeze a moment of history? Keith Middlemas surely gets close to doing so in this absorbing book. He achieves this partly through meticulous research, and partly through a series of sketched portraits of the inhabitants of Alnwick in Northumberland, drawn by a local artist, Percy Forster, in 1831 and handed down to Middlemas by his grandfather, a solicitor in the town.
Middlemas came late to them. Previously he has written about the political and economic history of modern Europe and the UK, although these sketches lay in the back of his mind, like a youthful memory. His learning adds greatly to this book as he draws on the methods of Ranke,