What was the peak civilization on earth? In totality, what do you think was the absolute peak of civilization at any given moment? The ideas of art, justice, economics, income equality, medicine, gender relations, and crime should all be taken into account. My argument is focused on the late Victorian era, but after reading The Victorians and After the Victorians, I will pinpoint the era to the late Victorian-Edwardian-Pre-WW1 era (UK 1880-1914). These two books do a great job of explaining all of the changes, how they fostered the greatest civilization, and how the Brits declined and handled the decline.
A.N. Wilson does a fantastic job of explaining the rapid changes in the world durign the Victorian era, how those changes and the Victorian worldview shaped our world, and ultimately, how it lead to the decline of Great Britain. It is a bit of a revisionist historical take on the Victorian era, but he is quite even handed with his approach to the pros and cons of Victorian Britain. There is much today that we do as a culture or organize as a society that is thanks to the Victorians. He is a Brit, and does make references frequently in "After the Victorians" to the household impact of the big picture items he writes about in the book. Much of the decline was created by the prosperity, the enlightenment of the literate class, and the expansion of the British Empire. I have argued in the past that the decline of Britain was marked with the entry into WW1, but if you read these books, you'll see that the foolish Crimean War + Socialist enlightenment sowed the seeds for their decline. Why should Brits care about far away squabbles by other countries? Why should lbierals switch in their definition of liberal from freedom to using the state to provide for others? The British decision to enter WW1 was just the exclamation point on their 'turn'.
The authors blind spot is his PC soldier mentality, as everything has that blank slate feminist or 'everybody's the same' race point of view. Some of his statements on governing in sub-Saharan Africa look foolish with what we know about sub-Saharan African governments. He also seems to not realize how Muslims govern or the corruption in India that is still a problem to this day. He is good in pointing out how the Victorian society had inequality and some odd views but that there were factions within Victorian England working to change them. One thing that is unspoken but when reading the book, you definitely feel it is how atheist Victorian and post-Victorian England was but how polite the atheists used to be compared to atheists today.
As an American, I did get this weird feeling that one day around 2050 an American author will write a duo of books titled "The Rise of the Americans" and "The Decline of the Americans". There are points in this book that will feel very similar to recent American history, just change the names, places and dates. It must be sad for Brits to know just how wonderful british society was, and how they struggled for Western Civ only to see their Empire + society be wrecked by external wars and undermined by internal do-gooders. The Brits just witnessed an Olympic opening ceremony that celebrated national health care, rock music, and showed participants that were 75% black or Asian (the UK is 90% white). Decline is soul sucking. If you wish to read a book on what a society can be and strive for, then read these two books.