Magazine March 5, 2018, Issue

A Free People

David Cannadine (C-SPAN)
Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800–1906, by David Cannadine (Viking, 624 pp., $40)

Exactly a century ago, the trashing of Victorian England began. As the “Great War” that had all but destroyed Europe ended, Lytton Strachey, a minor essayist and member of the Bloomsbury set, published a slim volume of four biographical studies under the ironical title “Eminent Victorians.” His aim was to indict the giants on whose shoulders he stood. Strachey succeeded: The forebears whose Victorian virtues had inspired the nation that had just led its Allies to victory over Imperial Germany would hitherto be known primarily for one vice: hypocrisy.

That the attitude of the British toward their ancestors should have been

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