Edwardian Britain is the quintessential age of nostalgia, often seen as the last long summer afternoon before the cataclysmic changes of the twentieth century began to take form.
The class system remained rigidly in place and thousands were employed in domestic service.
The habits and sports of the aristocracy were an everyday indulgence.
But it was an age of invention as well as tradition.
It saw the first widespread use of the motor car, the first aeroplane and the first use of the telegraph.
It was also a time of vastly improved education and the public appetite for authors such as Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and E.
M. Forster was increased by greater literacy. There were signs too, of the corner history was soon to turn, with the problematic Boer War hinting at a new British weakness overseas and the drive for Votes for Women and Home Rule for Ireland pushing the boundaries of the social and political landscape.
In this major work of history, Roy Hattersley has been given exclusive access to many new documents to produce this magisterial new appraisal of a legendary age.