This volume offers an introduction to the fundamental social, political and economic changes that took place in Great Britain from the late-18th century to the present day. In his study of this period, Pugh explores the major factors governing and determining events and asks: how and why did Britain reach her peak as a great industrial power by 1850? what has been the nature and extent of economic decline since the late Victorian period? how, as violent, revolutionary change swept across Europe, did the aristocratic British political system give way to mass democracy with scarcely a protest? and how did Britain manage to acquire a huge empire in the 19th century while investing so little in her armed forces? Using historical research, the author presents an accessible, concise and yet wide-ranging analysis of the factors that shape Britain. His study culminates in an evaluation of Britain's dilemmas at the end of the 20th century following the collapse of consensus politics, the rejection of Thatcherism, the emergence of New Labour and the reappraisal of Britain's relationship with Europe.