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A History of Britain Volume 2: The British Wars 1603 - 1776: British Wars, 1603-1776 Vol 2 Hardcover – 4 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; First Edition, First Impression edition (4 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563537477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563537472
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 19.6 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,162 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

The second volume of Simon Schama's BBC History of Britain: The British Wars, 1603-1776 is a more serious affair than the first. A History of Britain Vol I was free-range history: a fresh and at times iconoclastic survey of more than 1,500 years of the nation's story. Now Schama is more penned in, covering just a century and a half in 500 pages, and mixing it with the cockiest and wisest historians in the farmyard.

The ingredients that made the first volume such a spectacular success are still there: highly visual prose, fine informative illustrations, insightful thumbnail sketches of all the leading players and above all a clever interplay between what happened and, often of more significance, what people thought had happened. But this time around Schama also has to weave his way through the complex narrative of the civil war and Protectorate, restoration, "glorious" revolution and establishment of empire. He does so with clarity and wit, but also with admirable sympathy for all the conflicting protagonists--the austere Stuarts, the reluctant hero Cromwell, the cunning Walpole, the gouty Pitt and the thousands of Scots, Irish and American, and the millions of Africans and Indians whose destinies shaped and were shaped by the forging of the British state in these years.

Predictably, some history gets left out. Apart from a colourful depiction of Hogarthian London, social and economic history get short shrift, leading Schama, for instance, to imply that the British push to empire was largely the result of a popular addiction to narcotics: tea, coffee and opium. However, Schama's larger story--how a nation that was created out of a titanic struggle for liberty then went on to impose dubious dominion on much of the rest of the world--is told in a masterly and compelling manner. --Miles Taylor

Review

In [Schama's] typically readable style he moves the story on, from the accession of James I to the death of Clive of India, at a cracking pace. -- The Literary Review

Simon Schama is a historian of remarkable gifts and achievements. -- The Spectator

[Schama] remains a master storyteller, admirably and sceptically well read in current revisionist histories... -- The Times

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R. S. Stanier on 9 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The second of Schama's beautiful volumes technically covers 1603-1776, but (naturally) spends most of the time discussing the era around the Civil War: it was here, after all, that Britons actually spent considerable energy deciding what sort of country they were: blank canvas after blank canvas was begun only to be torn up, until the monarchy cum Parliamentary democracy compromise was reached.
Schama writes on two levels: the first is just to tell you what happened and to cover off the classic stories along the way, hence longish excursus on e.g. the Great Fire of London, the building of St Pauls, Wolfe in Quebec etc. The second is to offer his own vision for the forces behind what was going on.
Since Schama's vision is invariably fresh and insightful, this is a constantly illuminating read: he can shed light on topics you think you know well, as well as just lucidly explaining the things you knew nothing about.
Occasionally, though, this makes it a strange work. His explanation for the bringing to trial of Warren Hastings, for example, is that the Governor of India was a vicarious scapegoat for Britain's failure in America: though fascinating, that has to be a very idiosyncratic view, and yet he doesn't flag this up. All this means, I suppose, is that you shouldn't read Schama to get the standard account of things, there may be other books that do that job better.
Rather, read Schama's history for his unceasingly fresh vision.
Moreover, he expounds his themes magnificently, for example, the way Britain gravitated away from the "right" (mercantile) to the "wrong" (governing) sort of empire, or in how responsible Charles I actually was for the onset of the Civil War.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Peter Fenelon on 21 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is by far the best of the three volumes of Schama's History of Britain. Volume 1 needs more space to tell all the stories Schama wants to discuss; Volume 3 loses a little coherence because of its thematic rather than purely narrative approach. Volume 2 is the jewel in the crown though - an account of the 160-odd years from the start of King Charles I's reign through to the start of the American Revolution - the years that saw England transform into Britain, and from a marginal state at the edge of Europe into one of the Great Powers.
The themes of the book are nationalism, power, trade, and the complex relationship between government, monarchy and the people - Schama is a master at juxtaposing the stories of all three, showing the chains of chance, cause and influence that shape history. He quotes original sources liberally, writes in a wonderfully fluid and unaffected style, and has chosen a sensible set of illustrations to accompany the text.
Since Schama covers 150 years in the sort of space he'd previously used to cover the previous 4500 years, there is plenty of room for background, for personality and character (both the author's and those of the protagonists) to be revealed, and for analysis of the what-if's and might-have-beens.
This is narrative history at its best - a book as powerful as Schama's "Citizens" which singlehandedly rekindled my interest in European history.
Absolutely superb - a master at the peak of his talent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Graham Cammock on 4 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
One thing to note (on the Kindle version) is that the pictures at the end are all blacked out, so you can't discern a thing, which was a little bit disappointing. But don't let that put you off, as I'm sure that it is just bad luck. The book itself was really good! To me this was much better than the first volume of A History of Britain. Though I still think that Simon Schama's writing can be a bit too articulate for a layman. Practically, every paragraph, I had to use (Kindle's) dictionary to look up a flamboyant word. There must be thousands of such words in the text, and he never seems to use the same word twice! But then again, I suppose we all have to learn sometime. The book itself, however, did fill in those gaps in my own history, such as, who are the Stuarts? How did we pass from the Tudors to the Stuarts? What does Jacobean mean? Who is Charles I? How did the English Civil War(s) start? What did Oliver Cromwell do? Who is Charles II? What is the Restoration? What does Caroline mean? Who is James II and VII? Who is William of Orange? What is the Glorious Revolution? How did we pass from the Stuarts to the Hanoverians? Who is James Francis Edward Stuart? Who is Charles Edward Stuart? Who were the Jacobites? What did these people do? What were their religious beliefs? How did they view monarchy? How did religion play a part in all this? How are all these events connected? How did these people affect British history? Etc. In short, this book answers all of them deeply and in a very detailed way. I now know my stuff about seventeenth and eighteenth century Britain. I would highly recommend this book, and in fact the whole series, to anyone who would like a deeper understanding of British history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By geoffrey chinnock on 24 Aug. 2013
This book although well written, is in fact a comprehensive History of England. I found very little at all on Scotland and only one paragraph in this huge book about Wales. The title is totally misleading, Why did Scharma call it a 'A History BRITAIN' is a mystery.
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