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Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great [Paperback]

Robert Lacey
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

18 Oct 2007
From ancient times to the present day, the story of England has been laced with drama, intrigue, courage and passion - a rich and vibrant narrative of heroes and villains, kings and rebels, artists and highwaymen, bishops and scientists. Now, in Great Tales of English History, Robert Lacey captures one hundred of the most pivotal moments: the stories and extraordinary characters who helped shape a nation. This first volume begins in 7150 BC with the life and death of Cheddar Man and ends in 1381with Wat Tyler and the Peasants' Revolt. We meet the Greek navigator Pytheus, whose description of the Celts as prettanike (the 'painted people') yielded the Latin word Britannici. We witness the Roman victory celebrations of AD 43, where a squadron of elephants were paraded through Colchester. And we visit the New Forest, in 1100, and the mysterious shooting of King William Rufus. Packed with insight, humour and fascinating detail, Robert Lacey brings the stories that made England brilliantly to life. From Ethelred the Unready to Richard the Lionheart, the Venerable Bede to the Black Prince, this is, quite simply, history as history should be told.

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Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great + Fifty Things You Need To Know About British History + A Short History of England
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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (18 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349117314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349117317
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A Brief life of the Queen.

I have been writing about the Queen now for nearly forty years, and this little book is intended to distil and re-shape what I've learned into one pleasant afternoon's reading - a summary of its predecessors Majesty (1977) and Monarch (2002, Royal in the UK), with further research and thoughts on Elizabeth II in the year of her Diamond Jubilee.

'Lege feliciter', as the Venerable Bede used to say - May you read happily!

- Robert Lacey, January 2012 -

Robert Lacey is an historian and biographer whose research has taken him from the Middle East ("The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud") to America's Mid-West ("Ford: the Men and the Machine"). "Majesty", his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II, is the definitive study of British monarchy - a subject on which Robert lectures around the world, appearing regularly on ABC's Good Morning America and on CNN's Larry King Live.

Product Description


Beautifully written, full of things you didn't know and well worth a read if you want a new view on stories you though you already understood (LIVING HISTORY)

A great introduction to history and legend for children and adults who've forgotten (OBSERVER)

These human high-spots flash past like a newsreel with the leading characters in close-up, leaving you thinking - what an exceptional country ours is to produce so many interesting people (Books of the Year, DAILY MAIL)

Lacey's lively snapshots are always pithy and are delivered with a winning gung-ho enthusiasm (Books of the Year, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

* First volume of three recounting the dramatic story of England, from ancient times to the present day, by the No. 1 bestselling author of THE YEAR 1000

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A FANTASTIC COMPANION ON A LONG JOURNEY 17 July 2008
Sub titled - A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Great Britain, this is a splendid, very reasonably priced, handy sized volume that will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those with only the slightest interest in history. It is a fun and easy to read publication that I found ideal to take on my travels as it is the type of book you can so easily put down and then pick it up again where you left off without any difficulty.

In a nutshell, just about every period in English history is covered in this compact publication and therefore it is an excellent general read and an companion for any student at secondary school level upwards, as it will be sure to give them a fascinating overview of England's vast historical heritage and perhaps act as an aide-memoir to their studies too.

The author has successfully re-written historical fact, consolidated it and has now presented it a form that is still not only factual, but is also easy to understand and in many cases is witty too.

All in all a good read and a must for those long journeys on trains, boats and planes and evenings alone in hotel rooms away from home. Don't leave it lying around however, as someone will be sure to make off with it!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Once upon a time...." 15 May 2008
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
What we have here is a collection of historical material that was originally published in three separate volumes. Robert Lacey introduces it with some especially interesting comments: "There may be such a thing as pure, true - what actually, begin italics] definitely [end italics] happened in the past - but it is unknowable. We can only hope to get somewhere close. The history that we have to make do with is the story that historians chose to tell us, pieced together and filtered through every handler's value system." With that acknowledgment, Lacey then reassures his reader that the tales he shares are true, based on "the best available contemporary sources and eyewitness accounts" rather than on revisionist versions decades and even centuries later. his approach to this book was not cynical: "it is written, and recounted for you now by an eternal optimist - albeit one who views the evidence with skeptical eye...the things we do not know about history far outnumbers those that we do. But the fragments that survive are precious and bright. They offer us glimpses of drama, humour, incompetence, bravery, apathy, sorrow, and lust - the stuff of life. There are still a few good tales to tell..."

Each of the hundreds of tales Lacey shares averages 3-5 pages in length and covers a period that begins with "Cheddar Man" (c. 7150) and concludes with "Decoding the Secret of Life " (1953), indeed offering "a treasury of true stories about extraordinary people - knights and knaves, rebels and heroes, queens and commoners - who made Britain Great.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English history and all that! 1 July 2008
I love this book. I've just finished reading it and like any good book it leaves me wanting to read more. Luckily enough the section at the back gives the interested reader some suggestions for further reading for each section. For me it has sparked an interest in the Arthurian legend, medieval Britain and the Tudor period. Until reading this book I would have described my historical interests as either Roman/Byzantium, Victorian or anything other than British history.

For a long time I have been embarrassed by my ignorance of English/British history. I decided to read this book as a first step to correct that, and it has helped me understand and put in context many areas of British history. Of course it skates over periods of time at an astonishing rate, but for me that was part of the pleasure of reading it, I could cover a hundred years in about 20 minutes.

This book is ideally laid out for the modern reader. Each topic is reduced to 2-3 pages, there is no extraneous waffle and Robert Lacey's style is clear, succinct and enjoyable. I read this book mostly whilst travelling on a bus to work or late at night and its lightweight style was just right.

I'm not sure what version Amazon are describing here but my Abacus copy published in 2007 had 520 pages not 288. The dimensions are as above.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable complement to scholarly history books 15 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some history books can flood the reader with details, names, kings and queens, prime ministers and what not, in an attempt to be as comprehensive and unbiased as possible (both ends usually prove to be just beyond the author's capabilities). Alas, the anecdotal, digestible and entertaining side of history then often goes to the wall.
So I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover this book which serves as a great complement to all those history books that give you the facts but little else. It adds spice and a considerable amount of colour to some major but often also minor items of history. A great asset is that, although the layout is chronological, you don't have to read it that way. You can dip into it, race from Captain Oates to Blenheim, from Bosworth Field to Dr Crippen, from Caedmon to Dunkirk. It helps of course if you have some knowledge of English history to put some things in their proper perspective, but this is not an absolute prerequisite. Lacey's style of writing is engaging and accessible and he has a knack of telling you in just a few lines where you are and with whom and what's going on, and I found (and find) it very hard to put the book down once I've started reading in it. I have only one, minor, complaint: even with 453 pages (not counting the bibliography, preface, index etc.) I find it a bit short and I reverently ask Mr. Lacey (paraphrasing Oliver Twist): can we have some more please?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
If you only ever read one book on English History make it this one. 2000 years in 500 pages its easily digestible and most importantly its not dumbed down, just concise. Read more
Published 4 months ago by geoffrey harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars A lively book
An interesting book which is difficult to put down. Broken into nice little chunks which can be read during the odd ten minutes you might grab. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Richard Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable
Lacey's method of short, readable - people oriented - stories make his work a real page turner. Hard to put down.
Published 7 months ago by van k. Nield
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep It on the Bedside Table
This an excellent book. Full of stories of incidents in English history from 7000 BC to discovering DNA in 1953. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ron Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting book
I found this an interesting book, loads of bits of information that I had not picked up befre. I would recommend this book
Published 13 months ago by M Rushby
4.0 out of 5 stars My kind of history.
Short chapters - little nuggets of history hung around particular events or personalities, some well-known others less so. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Robin Gregory
4.0 out of 5 stars Good synopsis
...Of some of the most important moments in English history. I enjoyed reading it and I'm sure it would be a good read for my son years from now, when he's in school.
Published 14 months ago by Bucsa Oana Maria
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous
Whistle stop tour of British history punctuated with less well known facts. Makes for a fascinating read. Read more
Published 15 months ago by vita vite
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
concise, condensed versions of history. excellent.

I definitely recommend this book to people of all ages, probably useful for schools too?
Published 15 months ago by historystarter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Tales of Great Britain
This book is compulsive, accessible reading reading, yet informative. History for people who think they don't like history. Read more
Published on 21 April 2012 by AJC0441
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