Dominion: The History of England from the Battle of Waterloo to Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Written by Peter Ackroyd
Review by Jeanne Greene

Does the world need another history of England?

The fifth in Ackroyd’s series takes on a big challenge: England revels in the glory of having defeated Napoleon. The reactionary spendthrift George IV gives way to William IV, who lets in a breath of fresh air: the end of slavery and the beginning of political reform. The real story is the 18-year-old Victoria, of course, whose accession in 1837 opens the door to the innovation that makes England over top to bottom, the rich and the poor, and creates an empire.

But you knew all that, didn’t you? What’s new about Ackroyd’s version is the pleasure in the reading. It’s fun even if, maybe especially if, you are familiar with the era. This is not a pop history, however; it is a literate and informed account. There are no footnotes, but a generous bibliography will guide your own research. Reading the fifth in the series will send readers back to the bookstore for the other four. Highly recommended.