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Jenny Uglow

The Lunar Men

This book is about a group of prominent people who came together in the second half of the eighteenth century. They had many things which distinguished them from the ruling class of the time - they were based around Birmingham rather than London or the Oxbridge universities, they rejected the Anglican religion, they believed in science rather than tradition, and made their living from manufacture rather than agriculture. As such they were the forerunners of a new way of life in Britain, helping to start the industrial revolution. In this book Uglow gives a comprehensive description of their lives and their how their activities changed our society.

I have to say that I found the book rather hard going, particularly at the start - and it is a long book. Uglow comes from a literary background, and as such expects the reader to remember the relationships between a large and rather vague group of characters (as you would in a novel). This may be a problem if you're more used to non-fiction books. As usual I feel a more chronological approach might have been better, athough the approach used of devoting each chapter to an aspect of the group's lives does work better as the book proceeds. I think it's probably the sort of book for you to struggle through once, and then to reread chapters at a later time.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 608 pages  
ISBN: 0374194408
Salesrank: 486472
Weight:2.21 lbs
Published: 2002 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Amazon price $22.00
Marketplace:New from $21.75:Used from $1.44
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Hardcover 608 pages  
ISBN: 0571196470
Salesrank: 184324
Weight:2.65 lbs
Published: 2002 Faber and Faber
Marketplace:New from £22.20:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 608 pages  
ISBN: 0374194408
Salesrank: 1187944
Weight:2.21 lbs
Published: 2002 Farrar Straus & Giroux (T)
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 58.15:Used from CDN$ 6.62
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Product Description
From the celebrated author of Hogarth--An animated, swarming group portrait of the friends who launched the Industrial Revolution

In the 1760s a group of amateur experimenters met and made friends in the English Midlands. Most came from humble families, all lived far from the center of things, but they were young and their optimism was boundless: together they would change the world. Among them were the ambitious toymaker Matthew Boulton and his partner James Watt, of steam-engine fame; the potter Josiah Wedgwood; the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin, physician, poet, inventor, and theorist of evolution (a forerunner of his grandson Charles). Later came Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen and fighting radical.

With a small band of allies they formed the Lunar Society of Birmingham (so called because it met at each full moon) and kick-started the Industrial Revolution. Blending science, art, and commerce, the Lunar Men built canals; launched balloons; named plants, gases, and minerals; changed the face of England and the china in its drawing rooms; and plotted to revolutionize its soul.

Uglow's vivid, exhilarating account uncovers the friendships, political passions, love affairs, and love of knowledge (and power) that drove these extraordinary men. It echoes to the thud of pistons and the wheeze and snort of engines and brings to life the tradesmen, artisans, and tycoons who shaped and fired the modern age.