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Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power [Hardcover]

David Scott
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 April 2013

For viewers of BBC One’s ‘Britain and the Sea’, ‘Leviathan’ is a must-read; overturning long-held beliefs about our ancestry and weaving together the disparate strands that made the fabric of the Empire.

The 350 years between the accession of the Tudors and the beginning of the Victorian era saw one of the great transformations of any nation in history: Britain emerged from its lowly position as European underdog to become the world's only maritime superpower. It was a period that saw the creation of Protestant kingdoms in England and Scotland, the gain and loss of American colonies and the beginnings of a new empire in Africa, India and Australasia. It is a slice of our past represented by some of the most compelling personalities to have graced the historical stage – Elizabeth I, Nelson, Cromwell and Byron amongst them.

In this wide-ranging yet succinct history, David Scott challenges some of our longest held beliefs in how Britain achieved its constitutional might. Where other histories have concentrated on a narrow chronology, 'Leviathan: A World of Ships and Men' encompasses a broad spectrum, tracing the connections made across time as never before.


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Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power + Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present: A History of the Continent Since 1500 + 1913: The World before the Great War
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (11 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007240805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007240807
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 151,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Scott is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the History of Parliament Trust and has formerly taught at both York and Yale Universities. His previous book (for Palgrave) 'Politics and War in the Three Stuart Kingdoms 1637-49' was chosen by the Sunday Telegraph as one of its Books of the Year in 2004.

Product Description

Review

‘Thoughtful, entertaining and elegantly written … Amid the flood of new books on the making of the British Empire, Leviathan stands out as one of the best. Much of the book’s strength lies in its uncompromising insistence on the importance of institutions and politics … There are delightful character sketches and witty asides’ Sunday Times

‘Leviathan deserves to be widely read; Scott negotiates vast terrain with clear, lively prose and weaves his argument around vivid pen portraits and telling anecdotes … Above all this is a stirring narrative’ History Today

‘Sweeping and illuminating’ Financial Times

‘Challenging and erudite … perceptive … Scott is superb when he casts his eye on the culture of the times … [his] telling of this vast series of contingencies is masterful. Epic in scale, shrewd in judgement, utterly convincing, Leviathan demands the widest possible readership’ Literary Review

‘One of the best books on the rise of the British Empire’ Sunday Times

About the Author

David Scott is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the History of Parliament Trust and has formerly taught at both York and Yale Universities. His previous book (for Palgrave) 'Politics and War in the Three Stuart Kingdoms 1637-49' was chosen by the Sunday Telegraph as one of its Books of the Year in 2004.


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leviathan Unbound 18 Jun 2013
By tolkein
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have always been fascinated by the transformation from early Tudor England to world power by the beginning of the 1700s. How did this happen? Leviathan gives us a view that it depended on a marshalling and co-ordination of England's resources - that taxation and government direction can be a positive.

There were four strands that came out. first, the development of England's navy, then control of taxation to become an efficient state, then the development of England's army as a method of enforcement and the importance of empire as a means of economic development and, something not really developed, the importance of the Americas as a means of letting off population steam, as well as its economic growth fuelling part of the growth in Atlantic trade.

It's view that anti-Papism from the mid 1540s onwards was a powerful cohesive force that united the ruling elite with popular values is similar to that of Linda Colley. So add a fifth - the importance of ideology.

This is not an academic tome - but it is well written with a clear and supported thesis, which I was pleased to buy and pleased to recommend. I've given it 4 rather than 5 stars as I think it could have done with an economic analysis of England's strengths and how it developed over the period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power," by David Scott, is truly wonderful. Scott's prose is clear, bright and not mired down in academic jargon; his choice of material from a wealth of sources is inspired; his judgments are balanced and nuanced, and the overall effect is one of insightful illumination. This is a fine book to savor; reading it is like talking a long journey with a wise friend, where the trip itself is as enjoyable and satisfying as finally arriving at your destination. Scott provides a seminar's worth of information and learning about British history and the rise of Great Britain as a world power, and he does it so engagingly that learning has never been more fun. If you have any interest in this subject, this is the book to own and read.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master and Commander 9 July 2013
By JANEITE
Format:Hardcover
I usually stop at the end of the Tudor period when reading history, finding the Stuarts and what came after boring. I picked up this book, which encompasses British history from 1485 to 1785, from medieval system of governance to first British Empire and the loss of America, and enjoyed it very much.

The Leviathan in the book's title represents the all-powerful state with cash and armies at its disposal. Readers of Tudor history will know that the emergence of the 'state' began under the Tudor's, who transferred power from ancient aristocracy to 'new men' drawn from (mostly) the law or mercantile class. The state/Leviathan grew rapidly under the kingship of the unsatisfactory Stuart's and proved more autocratic than say any Plantagenet king. Hence, taxes are collected whether the taxed will or no (horrifyingly, a poor woman had her tongue nailed to a tree for complaining about taxes) and an anointed king is bloodily and publicly put to death.

Yet still the British desire a king and a restoration is made of monarchy which proves (again) highly unsatisfactory. The British need a king who provides good governance and leads them over the channel at regular intervals to give the French a good drubbing! Charles II proves to be in the pay of the French and the next in line has more than a whiff of popery about him - unacceptable to parliament and the people. Once again the state/Leviathan determines the future of kingship in these isles.

It's interesting to see how the state/Leviathan develops imperial ambition. Any Plantagenet king would have been satisfied to resurrect from time to time the issue of 'just rights and inheritances' over land lost in France, and Henry VIII in his wildest dreams could not have encompassed how great empire would become.
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