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How We Built Britain [Paperback]

David Dimbleby
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 April 2008
How did we get from the fortified tower to the grand open mansion and back again to the gated communities of today? How did we lose the marketplace to the out-of-town shopping mall? When did the appearance of libraries and prisons become so important? What does the way we arrange our city centres say about us? Can architecture really make a difference to our quality of life? In this beautifully illustrated book, David Dimbleby tells the dramatic and heroic story of Britain's architecture - the extraordinary buildings that define a nation and which grew out of the experiences and beliefs of the British people. This fascinating account of a thousand years of change in Britain's buildings tackles these questions and many more, and is filled with specially commissioned photographs and historic art.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (7 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074759287X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747592877
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 535,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A lively, literate and stimulating tour' Spectator 'Meticulously researched and stunningly illustrated ... fascinating and authoritative' City Magazine 'A thoroughly enjoyable and worthily Betjemanesque book' Sunday Express 'He is perfect for this gig - a broad history of our buildings and what they say about us' New Statesman

About the Author

David Dimbleby joined the BBC as a news reporter in Bristol in the 1960s and is now a major presenter of current affairs programmes and documentaries, having presented Panorama, The Dimbleby Talk-In, Question Time and the BBC's general election programmes. He is the author of A Picture of Britain.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised by how much I enjoyed this. 23 Aug 2010
Not my usual choice isn't this. History. (Along with science, art, antiques, gardening and anything with Julia Bradbury's ulcer-inducing enthusiasm in it) my usual reaction to such matter is to retreat discretely into the the reclusive safety net of lazyboy, coffee and QI. Perhaps I'm getting old, perhaps I'm becoming cultured, perhaps this time next year I'll be choking on a briar pipe and remembering the good old days when I used to have fun. Who knows?

I found this cheap in a high street store. I haven't seen the series, and didn't really know whether I'd end up reading it all or simply skimming it and (being as though I'm a bloke) just looking at the photos. The book starts in Norman Britain and leads to the present day (I found this a little disappointing; even a historical pleb like me knows the Roman's and Saxon's lived in buildings, why weren't they included?) Oh well. There are six chapters, each covering a different era (Medieval Britain, The Tudors and The Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain). Each chapter covers around ten buildings and each building covers around 2-3 pages, so the book is perfect (for a braindead simpleton like me) for dipping in and out of. Throughout there are beautiful photographs that often highlight the stories being told. There are also several pages at the close of each chapter filled with interesting (period) paintings and illustrations of other important buildings of that age, along with brief descriptions.

The buildings covered are varied and well chosen (from obvious choices like Ely and Belnhiem, to less obvious, though equally interesting, entries such as Stourhead -- a Georgian lake in Wiltshire surrounded by mock Roman temples); and there are fascinating stories and history behind them all.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
First things first: I haven't seen the TV series or the DVD, so my comments are restricted to the book itself!

This is a book for many different readers, and can therefore be enjoyed at a number of different levels.

It's an entertaining and personal account of David Dimbleby's travels to investigate some of the most important buildings and locations in the country, written in an educational but easy-to-read style.

It's an insight into the social background in which each of the book's subjects is placed, and covers the whole spectrum from magnificent fortresses and palaces to the everyday world of viaducts, barns, tower blocks and suburbia. (It's neatly divided into six subsections: Medieval Britain, Tudors and Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain)

It's a feast for the eyes with some wonderful specially commissioned photographs which perfectly complement the text.

On a purely practical and financial level: especially as books such as these tend to become heavily discounted as soon as the TV series has run, you can get hold of a copy (even on Amazon!!) for a fraction of its original price!

Go for it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History through stone 27 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A fascinating troll through Britain's history via the medium of buildings. Dimbleby's narrative is compelling, spiced with titbits which bring the era of the building to life. It's by no means technical but has enough of the engineering story to enable the reader to empathise with those who built these marvellous edifices. A great read especially in combination with the DVD of the TV series. If you like history, don't miss this one.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social history through architecture 23 Mar 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
David Dimbleby's book takes the reader on a guided tour of British architectural history. A special section is dedicated to Scotland, which will delight many who are so often disappointed by the exclusively English look on things British.
Speckled with anecdote, the book touches on many interesting details about everyday life that most regular history books pass over, because they are not relevant to the course of history.
Dimbleby avoids some of the most obvious buildings and locations, so you will not find Canterbury or York, but Ely Cathedral instead, not the Tower of London but Hedingham Castle, not the Houses of Parliament but Liverpool's St. George's Hall and Manchester's Town Hall.
Nor is the book exclusively concerned with regal buildings: the humble Scottish blackhouses and postwar prefab dwellings stand next to the grand Hardwick Hall and Blenheim Palace.
The book digs not very deep, how could it with 73 items crammed in 260 (well illustrated) pages and it is certainly not a dry technical exposé filled with jargon, but rather a readable, very informative and entertaining tome, both when read from cover to cover or just when browsed through.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing 18 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Books about "famous" architecture and building can be a bit samey after a while. David Dimblely's ability to relate the chosen subject buildings to his own experience and the wider historical/social context in a coherent manner makes this book really stand out.

Well, I have learnt a lot from this book (which incidentally does not feel "dense" at all)! Highly recommend it.
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