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A History of Britain: v.2: British Wars 1603 - 1776 Vol 2 (BBC Radio Collection) [Audiobook, Box set] [Audio CD]

Simon Schama , Timothy West
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Aug 2003 BBC Radio Collection
Simon Schama's sweeping history of Britain breathes life into our past centuries, vividly depicting exactly what life was like for our ancestors and how their experiences have shaped modern British culture and identity. An informative and entertaining mixture of anecdote and analysis, Schama's work offers a real insight into what it is to be British.

Product details

  • Audio CD: 12 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd; Abridged edition edition (18 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563494735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563494737
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 7.5 x 14.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 565,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Fate of Empire brings Simon Schama's stylish and absorbing History of Britain to a stirring close. Of the volumes in the trilogy, The Fate of Empire is the most subjective, as Schama offers his own account of how the British shaped much of the modern world, and in turn were reshaped as a nation and a people by the experience of revolution, empire and war.

Unlike the previous volumes, Schama only pays lip-service to the familiar narrative of British history. The great, the good and the unsung are all there--the Lake poets, Queen Victoria, Benjamin Disraeli, Mary Seacole, Winston Churchill and George Orwell--but Schama uses them as voices through which a different history of Britain can be heard. Ireland, India, the urban poor, suffragettes and striking miners are all restored to the national story. The emphasis on empire (along with India and Ireland the largest subject-entry in the index) is particularly welcome, although the finest hour of empire--the First World War--is dealt with all too briefly.

Along the way Schama reveals himself once more as one of the world's finest cultural historians, with brilliant vignettes on Rousseau in England, the 1851 exhibition, Orwell's complex patriotism and much else, together with original insights on photography, the effect of empire on English vocabulary, and the post-war "colouring" of Britain. For beginners this is an excellent 21st century perspective on modern British history. For connoisseurs it is a refreshing reminder of how little British history the English really know. --Miles Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Schama has a masterly ability to conjure up character and vivify conflict." (Ben Rogers Financial Times)

"He remains a master storyteller, admirably and sceptically well read in current revisionist histories, and a wonderful guide to a new history of Britain." (The Times)

"A History of Britain, its text supplemented by wonderful illustrations, affords the rare joy of witnessing a scholar at the peak of his powers convincing the reader that he has a cracking good tale to tell and that he is loving every minute of the telling." (Roy Porter Literary Review)

"Popular history at its finest." (Sunday Express)

"Simon Schama's A History of Britain is far more than the book of the TV series... The book is far richer and fuller, covering a huge span so economically that there is room for plenty of arresting detail... It is the sort of vivid history that keeps you awake." (Peter Lewis Daily Mail) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical Weight-Training 25 Oct 2002
I don't like glossy coffee-table books because of their physical nature. If you like to read lying down they are a bind: lie on your back and they make your arms sore in a way no paperback does; lie on your side and their waxy pages catch and reflect the light. *And* you have to swap sides every time you turn the page.
But for Simon Schama I'll make an exception. This is not just a paperback text with glossy pictures stuck on and a tenner added to the price. It is - please forgive the terrible nineties expression - an 'experience'.
This particular period of history is not, perhaps, as interesting as the centuries covered in the earlier volumes. After the excitement of the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath the narrative becomes less incident-packed and more focussed on social history. That I find this less interesting than the battles and religious strife that went before says more about me than it does about Schama. His prose pleasantly complements the photos and illustrations. He might not thank me for saying it, but he gives history a pleasing sense of narrative such as we non-academic dabblers need to keep us entertained.
So, a good purchase, especially if you're buying someone a present, or you're after a handsome volume to sit on your living room bookshelf. If you actually want to learn about the period this is a good introduction. However Schama is generally uncontroversial and readers already familiar with the material won't find much that's new.
Just be prepared to sit at a table to read it. Or maybe you want to beef up those biceps?
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shimmering Schama 26 Nov 2002
Let me start off this review by saying that I am a great admirer of Mr. Schama. I have read "Citizens", "Landscape And Memory" and "Rembrandt's Eyes" and thought they were all wonderful. I would give all of those books a 5 star rating. So, what happened here? I think what happened was that Mr. Schama was being pulled in 2 different directions. This book is meant to accompany the television programs that the author is hosting for the BBC. Instead of just writing whatever book he might ordinarily have written, I think Mr. Schama was hindered by the restrictions the TV format placed on him. For the TV shows he had to come up with various "hooks", a few well-known personalities that would help him illustrate whatever point or points he was trying to make at that place in the narrative. Additionally, the television format required Mr. Schama to be ruthlessly selective in what he chose to include or exclude. There just isn't the time to put in everything that you'd like to. These requirements distort the writing process. Mr. Schama is aware of the problem and addresses it in the preface to the book. But this "preemptive strike", this acknowledgement by the author that he is aware of the problem, doesn't make the problem go away. The author is such a good historian, and such a good writer, that this book is still well-worth reading. Mr. Schama has pulled out, like rabbits from a hat, some interesting tales of little-known historical figures. Here we have Thomas Day, a great believer in the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "...Day...believed in the inter-connectedness of all created life and was therefore a vegetarian...Would he want to treat all creatures with the same consideration, asked a sardonic lawyer friend, even spiders? Would he not want to kill them? Read more ›
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unorthodox take on British History 12 Oct 2003
The final volume of the 3-book series is as beautifully packaged and illustrated as the previous volumes and Schama'a narrative is as splendid as ever. Like the T.V. series, this third volume is a little annoying in the fact that Schama is obsessed with the arts to the detriment of the sciences. This is certainly a unique view on British history, such as the over-emphasis on the French Revolution in the first section, and many great characters such as Brunel have little to play in Schama's view of events. Schama seems intent on celebrating more obscure people at the expense of the more mundane. (I.e. No Nelson, Drake, Dickens is less significant a writer than Gaskilll, etc.)The chapters on the British Empire show Schama willing to trot out old cliches, something he intended not to do in his Preface in Volume 1. Here, the reader would be better directed to Niall Ferguson's excellent book where Schama's weaknesses become more apparent. There is plenty to read on the build-up to WW 2 but the actual conflict is almost mentioned in passing. WW1 gets even less attention.
I really enjoyed Volume 1 and felt that the author dealt with Medieval History in a clear, concise and witty manner. Volume 2 is the least interesting as Schama spent too much time dealing with constitutional issues. However, Volume 3 is too eccentric to be considered authoritive and is content to reduce the last 50 years to a few pages.
As a whole, the series is ambitious but Schama is too controversial in the emphasis he gives his different subjects. Norman Davies' book is also an interesting read, but ,equally not authorative, although more detailed. Readers interested in Pre-history will be disappointed by both books.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last and the Best 30 Dec 2002
Volume 3 of Schama's History of Britain is outstanding in its lucidity, honesty and insight. Schama's ability to convey the feel and texture of the past is nowhere better brought out than in his final instalment of his History of Britain.
Schama has also been alive and aware of the inevitability of giving us his History, as the title says, it is 'A History'. This is not a definitive, detailed all-inclusive history because Professor Schama no doubt knows that this is not possible and probably asethetically not desirable anyway. No, Schama instead continues to tell this History as a story, with a sense of truth that is not "always and forever" but that is sensitive toward what can reasonably told.
Schama's interests tend towards the cultural and the social and this is complimented not just by the astonishing weight of such material that is to be found in the modern and post modern eras, but also recent trends in writing cultural history. So the Great Exhibition becomes a symbol of Victorian Britain, the Romantic poets a key to unlocking post Revolutionary Britain whilst his weaving of the fate of Empire through the lives of Churchill and Orwell is a rich and demanding example of a historian in command of his work.
His skill is his ability to waltz from the parochial to the national and international, from the voiceless to the powerful and from the image to the text whilst all the while preserving clarity of thought and direction. His startling trait of providing insight through comparison and difference and his ability to play with imagination, memory and text all add toward a book remarkable in its breadth of knowledge.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars British History
Ok here is the sad thing about education in the USA. They don't teach a whole lot of history today. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Desert_Wind
5.0 out of 5 stars Good old Simon Schama.
Gotta love Simon Schama. This book is a wonderful overview of British history and a great addition to any bookcase. What a bargain.
Published 15 months ago by The Bookworm
2.0 out of 5 stars Should be titled "Simon Schama's Random Rambling Essays on a History...
This isn't even a history book as far as I am concerned. It is mostly just random series of essays about different aspects (seems to be a lot about Victorian authors/artists, etc)... Read more
Published 20 months ago by horoscopy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Excellent supplier, excellent set of books. Sharma tells history in such an enthuiastic way that you are drawn in hook line and sinker into his books.
Published 20 months ago by The Coffee Guru
5.0 out of 5 stars Good listen
A good listen on long train or bus trips. Starting from the end of Volume One it carries the story on.
Published 22 months ago by Satdy
1.0 out of 5 stars Rewriting History
This book is a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil account of British History. Reading the book one is lead to believe that British Imperialism was not a brutal quest for... Read more
Published on 9 Sep 2012 by Mr. O. Estevez
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable but a hostage to PC
Simon certainly knows how to make history accessible, though I cringe sometimes at his clumsy academic's attempts to acquire street cred by aping working class colloquialisms, but... Read more
Published on 8 July 2012 by Vlodec
5.0 out of 5 stars Schama in his element
This book was written to accompany a television series of the same name and there is an audiobook of it read by Timothy West, all of which I recommend. Read more
Published on 9 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge
We could do worse than to distribute this book and the previous to every person in Britain and get them to read it before ever being allowed to express a view about their country. Read more
Published on 13 July 2011 by D. J. Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars Erudite, Enthralling & Entertaining
Timothy West brings this highly erudite and entertaining history of Britain to life, don't even think of getting any other version! Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2010 by papemoe
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