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Edwardian England, 1901-15

By Donald Read

The Edwardian era marked a great turning point in modern British history.

In many spheres it produced the culmination of British power and influence which had been growing rapidly in the nineteenth century. Yet it also witnessed the beginnings of the decline which was accelerated through the twentieth century. Abroad, the British Empire reached its zenith during the Edwardian years but the military challenge of Germany was growing stronger. At home, the apparently dominant Liberal and Conservative parties were being threatened by a new political force in the Socialists.

Many misconceptions about the period, social, economic, political, and diplomatic have gained currency. At one extreme, it has been seen as a Golden age, shattered by the sudden impact of war in 1914; at the other extreme, it has been portrayed as an age of crisis, its society already collapsing under pressure of internal problems.

This survey presents a vivid portrait of the turmoil and vibrance of British society at the beginning of the twentieth century and suggests ways in which the history of this period has shaped the subsequent development of Britain through the century.

Donald Read (1930 – 1 October 2018) was a British historian and emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, who was appointed to write the authorised history of Reuters. Read died in 2018, aged 88.

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