Review: This Sceptred Isle, Collection 2, Christopher Lee

This Sceptred Isle Collection 2: 1702 - 1901: The Classic BBC Radio HistoryThis Sceptred Isle Collection 2: 1702 – 1901: The Classic BBC Radio History by Christopher Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I sometimes have the feeling that I end up praising literature too often, and this one here again makes me want to crown this work with all the laurels one could. It’s not even that it’s perfect, but there’s a lot more that ‘This Sceptred Isle’ does well than poorly, and it does so with good style. Frank Bridge’s opening music is a good example; by the end of this series I was definitely humming along every time another chapter started.

For what this does well, especially for the 18th century is its coverage of both the cultural and political sphere. Wars take a back seat while linguistic anachronisms, often still used today, are explained with a well-tuned story. Most of the major characters of the time period are introduced — the only other one for the two centuries who could have been mentioned are Earl St Vincent. Florence Nightingale could have been expanded upon more as could have Mary Seacole, but both of them got a mention in (at least I think Ms Seacole did).

A minor downside is that especially heading into the 19th century the coverage becomes a lot more political and less general, but I think that is to be expected. There is also a lot more to cover in order to give fair detail to the progress made and the developments that turned Britain into what it is now. The colonies and Ireland get less treatment, but as the authors note when mentioning a fact on Germany, ‘that is not the subject of this story’.

Overall, if you’re looking for a short go-to on British history, I would recommend this! The level of detail is well worth it, even for people who have done previous reading as it is unlikely that all of the time period could have been covered in as many colourful facts.

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