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A History of Britain (Vol 1) At the Edge of the World: 3000BC-AD1603: At the Edge of the World? - 3000 BC-AD 1603 Vol 1 Paperback – 1 May 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; New edition edition (1 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563487143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563487142
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 742,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and the prize-winning author of fourteen books, which have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age; Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution; Landscape and Memory; Rembrandt's Eyes; the History of Britain trilogy and Rough Crossings, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written widely on music, art, politics and food for the Guardian, Vogue and the New Yorker. His award-winning television work as writer and presenter for the BBC stretches over two decades and includes the fifteen-part A History of Britain and the eight-part, Emmy-winning Power of Art. The American Future: A History appeared on BBC2 in autumn 2008.

Product Description

Amazon Review

"History clings tight but it also kicks loose. Disruption as much as persistence is its proper subject". If only it had been dispensed Simon Schama-style at school. His enthusiasm without being overbearing or overwhelming is astonishing, considering his erudition and esteem world-wide.

He puts human stuffing into remote cardboard cut-out progenitors of our dynasty and destiny, realistically conveying spiritual and temporal needs and failings. Indeed, immature princes, homosexuals, royal mistresses, divorce and remarriage did not originate with the 20th century, and the quotidian norm of verbal and literal back stabbing and saving one's skin, hypocrisies of Church and State and horrible death from battle have been conspicuous from the outset. "War's plunder was the glue of loyalty binding noble warriors to the king".

British history turns out to be a show of many foreign parts and Timothy West's enlightening reading irresistibly spurs involvement with Roman government, Anglo Saxon confusions, doings of French and Spanish nobility, Henry VII's manoeuvres and Elizabeth I's intrigues--specifically the latter's spider-and-fly activities with turbulent Mary Stuart.

Schama says in his absorbing introduction "History should be not just instruction but a pleasure", This production fulfils that principle, and is utterly marvellous. (4 cassettes, running time 8 hours) --Lyn Took --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)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. P. Caulfield on 4 Mar. 2010
Format: Audio CD
I've been moved to review this item mainly in response to the only other review on this site having awarded it one star, and seemingly holding against Simon Schama personally the misguided and belligerant conduct of kings.

Certainly this work is a whirlwind tour of history. A lack of detail may be a partial downfall but this is inevitable when faced with the task of fitting 4,600 years into 8 hours. Given the constraints, it's a well researched, eloquent and balanced assessment. It maintains an admirable moral distance and like all the best historical works, it reviews and reports rather than judging history, but never steps back from expressing an apt opinion - this is no simple list of dates and events.

In contrast to the other reviewer, I found great examples of social history here. Schama's analysis of the changes in societal structure caused by the plague are intriguing, as is his discussion of the shifting and uncertain balance of power between monarchy and other echlons of society.

So, flawed by the time available it may be, but it certainly provides much that the inquisitive amateur historian may be looking for in its review of the period. It is an intelligent study of causation rather than monotonous historical list-making.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. J. H. Thorn VINE VOICE on 15 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
I bought this book with a view to gaining a general outline of how Britain's destiny has been shaped. Having read a few in-depth history books on specific events and short periods, I felt that I would gain by understanding the wider context in which these events occurred. In the main, I feel that Schama's book has given me that, although, as ever, it means putting one's trust in the author's accuracy and judgement of what is relevant.

What I didn't expect, unlike some reviewers it seems, was a comprehensive account of every event of note. With a subject this broad, the content is necessarily selective. I'm guessing, of course, but I'd say Schama chose the events he thought were the most fundamental to the nation's destiny, rather than the juiciest ones. Every subject he covers has a bearing on what follows and generally involves significant change, while illuminating what it was like to live in the period under discussion.

I read the indignant reviews of those attacking what they see as anglo-centric bias with some amusement. Those with the greatest power have the most influence and if they happen to be English kings, what is Schama to do? By all means, seek out material on the history of Wales or Scotland to learn about their cultures, but are we to suppose that the likes of Llewellyn or Malcolm III shaped our destinies? Had Schama adopted a more provincial approach, the same people would doubtless have criticised him for portraying the Welsh and Scottish as greedy, backstabbing, bloodthirsty barbarians, as it's clear that most of the, mainly English, protagonists were just that. As it is, conquerors from Rome, Scandinavia and France are also given extensive room. Hardly anglo-centric.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
Despite considerable detail about the French component of the English nation in earlier chapters, along with the campaigns and consequences, the Hundred Years War only gets mentioned by name!
My main irritation however, and the complete spoiling of the book for me, is the fact that the first third is quite good, and the last third OK, but the middle third is completly missing!! He quite reasonably and perfectly legitimately divides the time period by the reigns of the monarchs, spending considerable time on the main events and ramifications of each reign, and then covers the events of the Wars of the Roses, the transition from the Plantagenets to the Tudors, the rapid succesion of monarchs (not even named!), the life & times of Richard III etc. all in one page! This is arguably one of the most action packed, interesting and important periods in our history, and not described at all!
This is all the more galling when you consider that the reign of Elizabeth I, important in it's own way, but - let's face it, pretty un-eventful (Mary Queen of Scots, and the non-invasion of the Spanish Armarda are considered by Scharma to be the most dramatic happenings) - gets the single most lengthy chapter! When you think about it, the most important part of Elizabeth's reign was her last breath, which ended the Tudor dynasty, and brought about the unification of Scotland and England, effectively creating the Britain that all the other reviewers are carping on about. Sorry, but Boswell Field and the period that preceeded it are probably more important, and certainly far more interesting than the peaceful flowering of the Elizabethan period.
You have been warned - it's disappointment.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Mar. 2001
Format: Audio Cassette Verified Purchase
This is a great book to read but I think it all the better for having Timothy West read it. He has the right voice to draw you into the story of Britain and want to keep listening. The best part about the whole story is how the book combines both elements of our history - continuity interspersed with shocks to the system - which the country deals with and incorporates into the fabric of what makes Britain. The other fascinating point is how the book deals with the successive influences on Britain and how we are the result of a continuing series of waves of immigration and war. I recommend this audio book because it tells a story and helps identify where we came from as a nation - something that is very relevant to today
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