`Peerless prose and entertaining anecdotes'
`Foundation, which takes us from the court - and their bloody, dynastic game that played out over several centuries - to the land, its peoples and the formation of a national psyche over a millennium of relentless immigration combined with a steadfast attachment to custom. Continuity is one of Ackroyd's themes, in keeping with a writer always attuned to the footprint of a past that can't quite be seen. Foundation excels at a sort of historical patterning, as Ackroyd maps out the use of landscape, domestic lives and hard-wired English reflex for both violent revolt and bureaucratic administration.' --Metro
'The title choice of article - `The History', not `A History' - is telling. With `Foundation', Ackroyd makes a compelling case to be the country's next great chronicler..... As he moves from the Neolithic age to the death of Henry V11 in 1509, he creates such colourful images of hunters, gatherers, kings, knights, peasants and ploughman that we can imagine he lived through every century himself... Five volumes more of this? I can't wait.' Book of the Week, 4* --Time Out
'Ackroyd's trademark insight and wit, and the glorious interconnectedness of all things, permeate each page.' --Observer
'Every page throngs with chewy quotations, unexpected facts and conjectures, granular detail. His richly coloured prose - he has a showman's forgivable weakness for the superlative - wraps it all up compellingly...' --Spectator
'In a few lines he can capture the colour and flavour of medieval life. In the tenth century, he tells us, men wore their hair long; to cut someone's hair was "as criminal as cutting off a nose or ear". --Prospect
'It prises your eyes open to the past... but it has the urgency and colour of a novel. It even has cliffhangers... One notable thing about Foundation is that it doesn't only feature priests, noble folk and queens, but farmers, iron-mongers and revolting peasants demanding, via pitch folk, a better deal in life.' --The Big Issue
'This is an extraordinary book... On this journey Ackroyd opens our eyes to the history that has always been around us, from tribal groupings and regional differences to the long-term effects of Roman rule and the impact of the saxon invasions. The churches in country towns, monastic buildings and our common law all bear witness to our colourful past... Ackroyd's brilliance is to bring all this alive in effortless prose. In this volume we learn of influential personalities and the shape and size of the land they inhabit... Ackroyd brings delightful but revealing details of the lives of the people from the past into the present. He reminds us that history is not simply an account of the lives of the kings and queens of England but a story of the wars, customs, homes, clothes and heritage that we all share...History, Ackroyd argues, is a tapestry and, on the evidence of this book, it's impossible to deny him. Even if you think you know a lot about English history, you will learn a great deal from Foundation.' Five Stars --Sunday Express
'Ackroyd is particularly intriguing on language, writing that the Germanic word walh (Celtic Speaker) continues to reverberate in the words Wales and Cornwall, and that the town of Hastings might take its name from the "followers of Haesta" who settled there in the 5th century.' --Sunday Times
'Foundation is not only written with great clarity and wit, it also presents a subtly persuasive account of English and identity. He leaves England poised at one of its great turning points, as it welcomes the succession of the head strong humanist Henry VIII and celebrates the departure of his suspicious, prudent father.' --The Times Saturday Review
'Given the epic scope, Ackroyd's prose is a surprisingly easy read. Unlike many grand histories, there is no obvious thesis or reinterpretation here, just a highly readable narrative of stuff that happened. No new angles but plenty of Old Angles. If you're looking for a meticulously cross-referenced work of historical scholarship, there are better options out there. If, however, you want an account that conjures the distant past with the fizz of a very well-informed storyteller, Foundation is about as good as it gets.' --Londonist
'Full of good writing and anecdote...will sell by the truck load as Christmas approaches.'
'As anyone with a well-thumbed copy of London: The Biography...will know, Peter Ackroyd is a great example of that rare and unusual species: a readable historian...as he's turned his considerable literary skill to sociology, history and biography, he's become a national treasure...the writer has returned with his most ambitious project to date - a six-volume biography of British history. Setting the scene for this monster project is Foundation, a scholarly amble from pre-historic swamp to the feudalist Middle Ages, with plenty of colour in between...The prospect of circa 3,000 pages of history may seem like a heavy task but if this first part is representative of the whole, it'll be worth the investment. 8/10.'
--Sarah Warwick, Northern Scot Midweek
'It is a perennial complaint, not least by Education Secretaries, that the English do not know their own history. Nobody can accuse publishers of not doing their best to remedy this problem, if it really exists... Ackroyd confidently opens his "long story" 900,000 years ago... By the time we reach the more familiarly historical terrain of Romans, Britons, Angles and Saxons, Ackroyd has already staked out a view of his subject that seems unique to him... Ackroyd intersperses his narrative with shorter thematic chapters, which take up subjects from children's toys to climate, from the growth of towns to the diet of commoners and kings. here his unerring sense of the extraordinary or the emblematic is allowed full rein... Peter Ackroyd stays above the fray, trusting to the authority of his own voice and the power of his story.' --David Horspool, Times Literary Supplement
In it, Ackroyd takes us from Neolithic England, which we can only see in the most tantalising glimpses – a stirrup found in a grave, some seeds at the bottom of a bowl – to the long period of Roman rule; from the Dark Ages when England was invaded by a ceaseless tide of Angles, Saxons and Jutes, to the twin glories of medieval England – its great churches and monasteries and its common law. With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place, he tells the familiar story of king succeeding king in rich prose, with profound insight and some surprising details. The food we ate, the clothes we wore, the punishments we endured, even the jokes we told are all found here, too.