Georgian London: Into the Streets, by Lucy Inglis, Viking, RRP£20, 400 pages
The historian Lucy Inglis’s Georgian London began as a blog charting life in the 18th-century capital. Her book covers 1714–1830, the reigns of the four King Georges between the Stuarts and the Regency era.
Each chapter focuses on a cluster of the city’s emerging boroughs, and Inglis weaves a topographically focused picture of life for ordinary residents using contemporary evidence such as trial records and letters; her writing style is colloquial rather than that of a conventional historian.
Her focus is very much on everyday life, with thoughtful insights on immigrants, women and the poor. The result lies somewhere between a map and a serialised chronicle, full of neat character portraits and untidy, engaging plots.
Review by Lucie Elven
Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in front of the TV, by Joe Moran, Profile, RRP£16.99, 352 pages
Joe Moran is a professor of English with an eye for everyday things. He has already written about queueing and motorways; now his subject is television, and our intimate (though not always cloudless) relationship with it.
From television’s slightly unpromising beginnings as the “Televisor”, outsold by electric gramophones, Moran traces the rise of a medium that has brought “boredom and wonder, irritation and inspiration” on a grand scale. He covers everything from the Queen’s coronation to Crossroads, showing how these broadcasts interacted with the nation’s mood.
The book is particularly good on how television straddled the divide between high and low culture. “My husband is now taking an interest in ballet, and I in boxing,” said one satisfied customer in 1954. Meanwhile, Stephen Spender found respite from the demands of modernism in Neighbours.
Formidably well-researched and warmly appreciative without being too nostalgic, the irony of Armchair Nation is that it’s well worth turning off the box for.
Review by Orlando Bird