This text looks at the people, ideas and events between the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Second Reform Act of 1867. From "John Arthur Roebuck and the Crimean War", and "Samuel Smiles and the Gospel of Work" to "Thomas Hughes and the Public Schools" and "Benjanmin Disraeli and the Leap in the Dark", Asa Briggs provides an assessment of Victorian achievements; and in doing so conjures up an enviable picture of the progress and independence of the last century.
Asa Briggs was born in 1921 at Keighley, Yorkshire, and from 1955 to 1961 he was Professor of Modern History at Leeds University, and in 1961 he was the first academic to be appointed to the then new University of Sussex. Six years later he was appointed Vice-Chancellor. From 1976 to 1991 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was Chancellor of the Open University from 1978 to 1994. In 1976 he was made a life peer. He is married with four children.His main field of historical research has been in nineteenth- and twentieth-century social and cultural history. He has also written A Social History of England, a revised edition of which appeared in 1994. He is currently President of the British Social History Society and of the Victorian Society.