What I’m Reading: Town, City & Nation: England, 1850-1914

Working on my newest novel (it’s going well, thank you!) has taken its toll on my posting frequency lately, that and that my most recent book doesn’t lend itself to much light discussion. Town, City & Nation: England, 1850-1914 is a real academic book. But I enjoyed it–lots of good stuff about historical city development.

I think my favorite part was the section on English seaside resorts and their development. The first were upper-class getaways like Brighton in the early 1800s, but steamboats, and later railroads, made seaside towns increasingly accessible to the middle and then lower classes as the 19th century went on. The most famous of these more middle-class seaside town was Blackpool, which remained a favored vacation destination until the 1970s. This was a subject I was simply not familiar with before reading this book.
It’s quite a thorough book, covering or at least touching on pretty much any urban history or economic topic concerning English cities in its time period. I found sections on different types of work in London and class relations in the great industrial cities to be worthwhile, and a section on crime in small market towns unexpectedly fascinating. On the other hand, I was hoping for more on transportation in cities during this time period, but that’s probably well-covered elsewhere.
I can’t claim that Town, City & Nation would be of widespread interest, but for those with into urban history, especially how cities develop, this is well-written and well-organized, and packed full of great information.

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