Sarah Bradford

Two Nations Under God

High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain

By

Random House 876pp £30 order from our bookshop

In the years between 1838 and 1880 Britain changed irrevocably and for the better. Powered by various intellectual and political movements, what Simon Heffer describes as the ‘pursuit of perfection’ was conducted against a background of rapid industrialisation, rising population, hideous poverty and disease, ignorance and criminality, as some of the finest minds and most powerful politicians combined to confront what Thomas Carlyle called the ‘Condition of England’ question.

In this monumental book, Heffer illustrates an age of progress and achievement led by men such as Dr Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, who

transformed what had been a fair specimen of the debauched and riotous establishments known as public schools into the character-building, God-fearing, scholarship-winning model for the reform in the 1840s and 1850s of other schools of its type. He thereby had incalculable influence on world history, indirectly staffing an empire, and helping to shape … the emotional development of a governing class for several generations.

He believed in kindness, unlike his contemporary at Eton, who flogged eighty boys in a day. He also believed in state intervention, an increasingly powerful theme in Victorian political life after the 1832 Reform Act first widened the franchise.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • John Stubbs reviews Stephen Greenblatt's latest, 'Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power' ,
    • RT : What happened when US military strategist Herman Kahn - one of Kubrick’s three models for Dr Strangelove - took LSD… ,
    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,
    • RT : First founded in Edinburgh in 1979, is considered a trusted independent source for reviews of new book… ,
    • 'In different ways Hatherley makes gritty Lódź and poor old which-country-are-we-in-this-week Lviv sound entrancing… ,
    • In this issue Lucy Popescu discusses the miscarriages of justice occurring in the investigation over Maltese journa… ,