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Welsh History Review


Vol. 9, nos. 1-4 1978-79

Bibliography of British history, 1789-1851 : Book review.

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has been no comparable synthesis since Basil Williams's The Whig Sup-
remacy, published almost forty years ago. But even more valuable is the
original research that has gone into the writing of Stability and Strife.
For as well as reviewing recent historiography, Dr. Speck has rightly
tried to approach the period in a way 'that would have made most sense
to contemporaries' (p. 2). This approach is reflected in the primary position
accorded to constitutional developments: to Walpole's generation it was
'the Britannic constitution that gives this kingdom a lustre, above other
nations' (p. 20, quoting Roger Acherley, 1727). It is reflected in the lively
use made throughout the book of the pamphlets and imaginative literature
of the time (though it is a pity that nothing from this literature is specific-
ally recommended in the bibliography). And it is reflected again in the
excellent chapters on society and economy, where the basis for discussion
is provided, respectively, by the social statistics of Gregory King (1688)
and Joseph Massie (1760), and by Defoe's Tour through Great Britain
(1724-26). In one respect, however, Dr. Speck does less than justice to
contemporary attitudes, and this is in the field of Britain's relations with
Europe. 'Foreign policy', he writes (p. 24), 'was the overwhelming con-
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