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.