This is a portrait of 18th century England, from its princes to its paupers, from its metropolis to its smallest hamlet. The topics covered include - diet, housing, prisons, rural festivals, bordellos, plays, paintings, and work and wages.
By Dianne on Mar 27, 2002
I enjoyed this book so much that I look forward to reading more of Porter's books. Some readers may find it necessary to keep a dictionary close by, but don't let this put you off if you are interested in the social history of England in the 18th century. The author manages to balance dry statistics with extremely interesting facts, all written in a reader-friendly manner. Chapter headings such as "Power, Politics and the Law" and "Having and Enjoying" give you an idea of the wide scope of the book. The reader will find more enjoyment in reading 18th century works (novels, biography and non-fiction) after being educated by this book. I oftentimes read, then sell my books. This is one I will not sell. I only wish I had it in hardcover. If "What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate" (sic) left you crying for some serious information about this age, I recommend this book!
A Pure Delight
By Thomas M. Sullivan on Aug 18, 2003
I come late to Porter, and I certainly wish I hadn't. It's almost enough to make me surrender my credentials as a dyed-in-the-wool lover of English History. The deceased physician-cum-historian was a prolific writer, turning out works on subjects as diverse as English manners and the social history of gout. But having now read two of his books, including this excellent overview of English society in the Georgian period, I realize what all the (quiet) fuss was about. Porter was simply a fabulous writer who happened to be an historian, the opposite too often not being the case. I doubt very much there is a better source in this subject for the general reader than this book. But if you buy it, by all means read it slowly and take time to savor the writing. The good news for me is that I have a lot of Porter yet to read, and I can't wait.
Difficult but good
A Customer on Nov 01, 2000
This is a good study of English life of the 18th century. It is written by a brit, using their slang and spellings, at the college level. I found his comparisons of life in England to life on the European continent very interesting and informative. His slant on the individual liberties to which most Englishmen felt they were entitled was enlightening. This is a difficult book and I found myself looking up words in the dictionary frequently, but for someone who is seriously interested in knowing what life was like in Great Britain in the 1700s, it is a good choice.
Excellent reference for behind the scenes look
A Customer on Apr 26, 2001
Being a huge fan of period films, I was curious to see just what life was really like in the time of powered wigs, petticoats, and parties. This book has opened my eyes to see what it really WAS like---and I have to say, the Hollywood version is much easier to take! Still, it is a very fascinating time period to study. The author's narration is very clear and focused, and although he writes at a higher level, he is not incomprehensible. This book is well worth the read =).
History at its best!
A Customer on Jul 25, 2002
Interesting and thought-provoking. As always, Roy Porter has written a wonderful book---of use to both the general reader and the specialist. The book is filled with wonderful characters, fascinating facts and, of course, Porter's insightful analysis. Porter once commented that he met a student reading this book on a train. When he asked the student (who did not know who he was) what he thought of the book, the student replied that it was boring (Porter thought this story was hilarious). I have to wonder what planet the student was on! This is the kind of book you only wished your professors had assigned!
History Repeats Itself
By Daniel Myers on Oct 07, 2007
The good thing about this book is, as another reviewer has put it, that its author is a "writer who happens to be an historian" rather than vice-versa. ---In other words, it has an authorial voice----Unfortunately, that's also the not so good thing about it. While we are kept turning the pages with droll quips and the like, the attentive reader won't fail to notice that these quips become repetitive. Not only that, but Porter uses the same citations to make exactly the same point in different chapters. Stylism in history writing doesn't always play so fast and loose, but it does here. Several of the reviewers seem to have read this work as a classroom assignment, their first exposure to Eighteenth Century England beyond Hollywood (for at least one reviewer). For such, this book is probably just the ticket. Those looking for more depth and less anecdote will need to turn elsewhere.
Thought Provoking and Incredible Insight
By The Party Animal on Sep 12, 2013
I am still working through this book, but, the overall breadth of the subject matter (myriad facets of English society in the 18th Century) is a direct hit with many of the things that I am most interested. The research put into the material is readily apparent and very well done. Some of the insights and theories that the author makes based on this extensive research have been very thought-provoking for me. It is also interesting to read in parallels between England in the 18th Century and the US in the 20th & early 21st Century. I am particularly excited by the way the author illuminates every day life for both the peasants and the nobility, and I am very excited that he makes great effort to put monetary values in context to help gauge the levels of relative wealth back then (and even now). Some of the passages that address party politics I have found confusing - partly because that is not one of my interests, and because those sections do assume rather a bit more prior knowledge of the history of the Whigs and the Tories that I have, and, at least so far, the book does not step back and do a more general review first. Otherwise, I highly recommend this book, especially if the subject matter holds personal fascination for you.
Very broad overview
By David Johnson on Apr 27, 2014
The great strength of this book is that it discusses everything. The great weakness of this book is it discusses everything without being able to say much about anything. As a baseline reference for Georgian life, it is a place to start, but if there are specific questions that interest the reader, further information will likely be required. That said, it is well indexed, and if a reader just needs to get a general sense about something (Clive in India for example) the book will serve well for that.
Rigorous, well written, intriguing.
By Giuseppe on Nov 20, 2012
It is not usual to meet a treatise in history able to catch your attention page after page. The literary dimension helps very much, and it is the case. A wide, well documented, never boring but complete manual on the social history of the XVIII century. I would recommend it as a basic textbook (to be appreciated the correctly deep and complete reading guide) but also as a stimulating reading for the passionates.
An excellent resource
By Rosie on Jan 02, 2013
Contains a wealth of information about the Georgian period in England. Gives insight into an era not as well-known as the regency or Victorian periods.