For all the popular history published about, say, Anne Boleyn's third cousin thrice-removed, books that outline the fundamental forces of British history - the tectonic economic changes beyond any individual's or even government's control - are surprisingly rare. Thankfully, Duncan Weldon has written just such a book. He pans out from the trees we've become so accustomed to squinting at to show us a vast, wild and unpredictable wood. Here is the history that really matters.
In just 300 pages his narrative races from the early 1700s to the Covid pandemic, taking in everything from the South Sea Bubble to the impact of the financial crisis.
Could hardly be more timely ...Impressively researched, succinctly written and highly readable
A terrific achievement, covering clearly but with subtlety everything from the spinning jenny to Covid-19. Along the way, Weldon makes some intriguing arguments, such as how successive generations of politicians swear they're fixing problems, only for a new variant to pop up a little later. And he takes on Keynes's assertions that ideas are ultimately what shape history. They don't: what matters most is political power.
Pitch perfect, fast-moving, brilliantly well-judged. Immensely relevant. This is a history Britain needs.