Summer is almost over but that doesn’t mean one can’t enjoy seasonal reading into the Fall. Good candidates abound in the multi-volume works of Englishman Andrew Wareham. The Duty and Destiny series traces the rise of a fighting captain in Nelson’s Royal Navy. The Poor Man at the Gate volumes chart the rise of a tough, resourceful and ruthless youngster from poverty to wealth and power during the Industrial Revolution. Wareham churns books out at a great rate and several other “life and times” series are on offer.
These are substantially easy-reading, Boys Own books. But they are not just about derring-do. There is a certain amount of Jane Austen manners and moralities as well. And a good slice of economic history. Those who garnered education as well as entertainment from Downton Abbey will find similar themes pursued in these books.
The Royal Navy was England’s lifeline during its great Imperial days and that permits Wareham to take his hero, Frederick Harris, just about anywhere in the world. Young boys, rich and poor, joined the navy in those days and, if they survived and learned fast, had the chance of riches and glory. Tom Andrews, the protagonist of the Poor Man series got his start as a privateer – pirate? – and parleyed it into wealth and respectability via cotton and iron.
Wareham is an economic historian and he shows why and how the English did what they did during the late 18th and early 19th centuries to move their country into the modern era and build a globe-girdling Empire in the process. We learn how the enclosure of land affected England’s economy and helped people emerging North America. How and why Jewish bankers found a friendly home in London? Why the English Midlands emerged as a core of the Industrial Revolution. How shrewd commoners rose to higher estate despite restrictive class laws and attitudes. Did you know that you had to go to Scotland to get a good education rather than Oxford or Cambridge –even though the former was déclassé?
Wareham provides a fine education without slowing down the action one iota.
If, like me, you do a lot of reading on a Kindle your pleasure and education via Mr. Wareham will cost you next to nothing. So there is nothing to stop you dipping a toe into a world re-created to see if it is your cup of tea.
by Hugh Menzies