The title of this intriguing book derives from Edward Gibbon's description of the second century AD as the time of the greatest happiness and prosperity in the history of the world. Jock Macdonald puts the eighty years of his lifetime under a lens to consider to what extent Gibbon's description holds good for the Western World in the period since the Second World War. His lens is his own worldview and its focus changes from that of early childhood in wartime India, through adolescence in Scotland and England during the lean years of the 50s, to a successful career in education, followed by a committed involvement in both local and national politics. Interspersed are a series of delightful interludes involving in particular his lifelong passions for classical history and literature, archaeology, and the joys and perils of owning a derelict cottage in Umbria.
What makes the book much more than a memoir of a life well lived is the intent behind it. The author is a serious environmentalist who sees lurking behind the good years of the second half of the twentieth century 'intimations of calamity just over the horizon'. Already by the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, the Climate Crisis is widely seen as a calamity with greater potential for disaster than anything Gibbon could have imagined. Macdonald accepts that as individuals we may be powerless on a global scale, but that we can and must speak out. He does this now through his debut book about a life spent asking questions and helping others.