Nigel Jones

At the Going Down of the Sun

A New England? Peace and War 1886-1918


Oxford University Press 951pp £30 order from our bookshop

Titling a series ‘The New Oxford History of England’ raises numerous expectations. ‘New’ suggests daring revisionism; ‘Oxford’ implies orthodoxy; ‘history’ an officially approved narrative; and ‘England’ itself, once what people meant when they spoke of ‘Britain’, is today, thanks to the EU and New Labour, fast becoming a frowned-upon, literally unthinkable concept.

It is a courageous historian who answers such a complex challenge, and G R Searle, in this latest volume in the series, cannot be faulted for his monumental industry, and the wide scope of his inquiry. His huge dreadnought of a book launches into the high summer of Victorian peace and plenty, glides majestically through the gathering storm of the Edwardian era and then sails fearlessly into the tempest of the Great War. En route, he hits all the right targets: the growing angst of the governing class over the burden of empire and the future of the race; the radical questioning of Britain’s imperial destiny; new threats to the ruling ethos (from the Labour Party and trade unions, or sexologists like Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis); garden cities; suffragettes; Fabians; Boers; Germans. He examines thorny questions like eugenics and racism, devotes chapters to the fashionable topics of ‘gender’ and ‘national identity’ and naturally arrives at all the correct left-liberal conclusions.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The 25th Bad Sex in Fiction is happening in a week. There’s a press release if you’re the sort of person who wants a press release ,
    • sorry I can’t spell fluttering. I was agitated.,
    • Probably try and get an announcement out later, for all these male writers who think of fluttering inner muscle sheaths...,
    • He felt the muscles far inside her flutteriung around him,
    • Next week sees return, and we've got discounted tickets on offer, right here: ,
    • We're rarely topical - tricky as a monthly magazine - but we've an article this month all about Laurence Binyon, po… ,
    • "We will remember them" - who wrote those words, and why have them become our terms of memorial? ,