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When this book begins, in the reign of Edward VII, Great Britain commands the mightiest empire the world has ever seen. By the time it ends, with the Coronation of Elizabeth II, Britain has emerged victorious from a world war, but ruined as a world power. How did Britain's power and influence decline? This is one of the questions which A. N. Wilson seeks to answer in his masterly follow-up to The Victorians. As in the previous book, however, he has painted the portrait of an age. The extraordinary advance of science and techlogy, the changes in fashion, art, music and literature, the rise of feminism, and the changes in the class system are given as much space as the wars and the political struggles at home and abroad. We follow Dr Crippen on his ill-fated attempt to murder his wife and elope with his mistress. We meet the Rector of Stiffkey - the 'prostitute's padre' - who died the death of an early Christian martyr in a lion's cage. We share the excitement of the discovery of radar, and of the structure of DNA, as well as the moral dilemmas of those who pioneered the nuclear bomb. We travel the first half of the twentieth-century in the company of the heroic and the discreditable, the low and the great: Ezra Pound, Nancy Astor, Noel Coward and Vera Lynn, as well as with Baldwin, Chamberlain, Hitler and Churchill. The challenges of the 1930s and the drama of the Second World War dominate the book's central story. Although the political classes failed in their duty to the poor, and failed to avert a war, Wilson traces the way that the war against Hitler changed Britain forever. It was, he argues, a ble struggle which saved the world and ruined Britain.
A. N. Wilson was born in 1950 and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has held a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is an award winning biographer and a celebrated novelist, winning prizes for much of his fiction. He lives in North London.