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Foundation: A History of England Volume I (History of England Vol 1) [Hardcover]

Peter Ackroyd
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Sep 2011 History of England Vol 1
The first volume in a new six-part history of England from acclaimed author Peter Ackroyd

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; First Edition edition (2 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230706398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230706392
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Product Description


'In a handsome, book-lined room overlooking a quiet London square Peter Ackroyd is hard at work on what is probably the biggest non-fiction project of our times... In its scale, Ackroyd's project echoes the monumental histories of Churchill, Trevelya and Macaulay, but perhaps the closest parallel is Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire... He makes bold, flowing statements and conclusions that make the familiar, national story fresh again.' --The Bookseller

`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.'
--New Statesman

'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 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

Book Description

Having written enthralling biographies of London and of its great river, the Thames, Peter Ackroyd now turns to England itself. This first volume of six takes us from the time that England was first settled, more than 15,000 years ago, to the death in 1509 of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII. 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.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and highly enjoyable 18 Sep 2011
An accessible and highly enjoyable introduction to England's history: Ackroyd vividly sets the scene, cleverly shifting the focus between the detail and the bigger picture. The pace is fast-moving and engaging pulling the narrative along with fluidity and ease, then pausing at times to illustrate key facts, or to delight in the colour and tone of the everyday, evoking a sense of time and place and a taste of how our ancestors lived.

Perhaps his brushstrokes are too broad and sweeping at times for historical puritans, but all history is a narrative, and a retelling, and this is just one interpretation and contribution to that broader narrative and should be appreciated as such; a rich and textured examination of England's origins and identity, which leaves me keen to follow Ackroyd's journey in the remaining five volumes.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brisk, Colourful Read 14 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's difficult for a modern author to take on the history of a nation. Nineteenth century authors could typically begin from the national myth and just add detail and texture. Modern historiography is less romantic and has jettisoned the retelling of the political narrative in favour of closer inspection of cultural and social history. Writing a book that runs from the Brythonic tribes to the death of Henry VII, as this volume does, would be next to impossible under the terms of modern academic historiography, which is a shame because so much that is recounted here has largely fallen out of modern consciousness and benefits from the slick presentation for which Mr Ackroyd is famous.

The History of England: Foundation, retells the development of England from a disparate island of tribal nations, through multiple conquest and immigration (Roman, Angle, Saxon, Norse, Norman) as a national identity is forged. The first millennium AD is handled at a brisk trot: unsurprisingly given the dearth of information on the Brythonic tribes, the Roman 'occupation', the Danelaw and the Anglo Saxon kingdoms. Ackroyd alternates a political narrative with short chapters on cultural and social themes, providing a flavour of the country in addition to the movements of grandees and the ambitions of monarchs. This is more than a sop to current historical vogue as it is also a key element in his overarching thesis - that despite the prevailing political conditions and the actions of 'good' or 'bad' monarchs, the history of England is a history of continuity. Prevailing macro economic, climatic and natural factors have greater agency than kings but despite all of these things, places of worship remain holy whether the devotion is to pre-historic spirits, pagan Gods or the Christian God.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Foundation for further reading 12 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reviews of this book seem split between the 'great overview' crowd and the 'not a serious history' bunch.

I'm definitely in the former camp and I really enjoyed this book. The author has a story he wants to tell and he gets on with it in an interesting and engaging way. I'm certain there are great arguments to be had on the nature of Englishness, the characterisation of King John, the importance of varying dramatis personae, and so on. But that isn't the goal of this book. Within a single volume it is impossible to cover all angles and viewpoints.

To misrepresent the title, this is a foundation book. Read it to get a broad and broadly acceptable understanding of the period covered. ...and then perhaps be inspired to go out and read more about the nuances and controversies of the time that interested you the most.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good If you just want an overview 24 Sep 2011
By Pam
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read both the previous customer reviews, especially the one that really slates the book, I felt obliged to add my two pennorth! I wanted an overview of English history to be able to get a chronological perspective on the history I can barely remember from school - this provided that perfectly. It is well written and readable, I have enjoyed the structure of the book which intersperses chapters on the royal succession with chapters on various aspects of life and if it is as factually incorrect as one of the reviews suggests then I neither noticed nor care. I am not going to sit a history exam, I wanted a readable, rough idea (what else could it be in one book)of English history (not bothered about when England became England)and that is exactly what I got.........horses for courses I suppose.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking Read 27 Sep 2011
By Mockers
An accessible, easy reading and thoroughly enjoyable race through several thousand years of history. The author's origins as a writer of fiction rather than a historian gives him an eye for the little details that bring a story alive. Bring on the next 5 volumes!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By delta
Having never learned more than the bare basics of English history at school, I bought this in the hope that it would enlighten me, and I wasn't disappointed!

As you would expect from Peter Ackroyd, The History of England Volume 1 is very readable and enjoyable, as well as teaching me something new in almost every chapter. Half of the chapters concentrate on one or two kings and their reign, and the other half concentrate on a certain aspect of society at the time. These are alternated, which provides nice breaks (the short society chapters) in the main narrative.

Personally I think if every 12 year old were given this to read, they might well take a lot more interest in the history of the country.

So overall I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone, and can't wait for the rest of the books in the series.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Clear
Simplicity and clarity are two of the key words for Ackroyd's first volume in his History of England. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Peter Steward
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History For The Educationally Challenged
For one who was badly taught history at school Ackroyd's approach and style provides an understanding of this important way of viewing the world in its many and varied aspects. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Clifford
1.0 out of 5 stars garbage!
this is complete and utter garbage. the druids......english! really?
the romans invading.....england? fighting the english tribes......really? Read more
Published 4 months ago by tomtaff
1.0 out of 5 stars Inaccurate, facts optional
I read a few lines of the early chapters of this in WH Smith and was appalled, but I wasn't going to spend a tenner there to be appalled. Read more
Published 6 months ago by AD Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars review of book from Amazon
speedy service, good price. I have bought it as a present so i have not read it. I assume the recipient will love it
Published 7 months ago by cookie
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good.
An absolutely brilliant read. Very well written.

If you like history, read this. You will love it. Can't wait for another volume (if there is one)
Published 10 months ago by Jon C
4.0 out of 5 stars History for grown-ups
Was given The History of England Volume II Tudors and on strength of this bought Volume I. Peter Ackroyd has the ability to inform as well as fascinate! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Shaz Rick
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Ackroyd par excellence!
Having read his second book 'The Tudors' on holiday and found it fascinating, I had to buy his first and it confirms my expectations. Read more
Published 10 months ago by D. Leoni
5.0 out of 5 stars history of England book
The book is interesting, very informative about that era, although I've not read all of it yet I am looking forward to getting volume 2
Published 11 months ago by Tilly
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
Fascinating and readable account of the early history of England. Thought i wouldn't be interested until it got to the wars of the roses, but its gripping from the very start. Read more
Published 11 months ago by richteafinger
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