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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-
sideration of eighteenth-century cabinets' — and, it might be added,
increasingly of eighteenth-century parliaments too. Yet this is not borne
out by the sketchy treatment of British diplomacy which is offered. Nor is
the opportunity taken to stress the closer links of a more general kind
developing between Britian and the continent at this time, as a result of
commercial expansion, increasing foreign travel and immigration from
abroad. A man like Abel Boyer, for example, is significant not only for
his politic journalism, which Dr. Speck cites frequently, but also because
he was a Huguenot 6migr6, representative of an influential cosmopolitan
element in English urban society. In this period, perhaps more than in any
other, the European dimension is an essential part of Britian's development.
By neglecting it to some extent, Dr. Speck has weakened what is otherwise
a most accomplished study.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF BRITISH HISTORY, 1789-1851. Edited by Lucy M. Brown
and Ian R. Christie. Clarendon Press: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Pp. xxxi, 759. £ 20.00.
There can be few more selfless or daunting tasks for any historian than
the compilation of a bibliography on this scale. It is a work of infinite
labour, of the very greatest value to fellow historians, yet the chances of
it turning into a best-seller and paying off the mortgage must be rather
remote. Dr. Brown and Professor Christie have performed their duty
with great distinction. It was an act of mercy to send two historians out
on such a journey: perhaps the reviewers also might have worked in pairs.
The essential problem is that of selection and organisation. The mass of
printed material on a period like this is overwhelming, and only a fraction
can be included. At every stage there are delicate judgements to be made-
what to include, what priority to give it, and how to evaluate it in a few
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