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The English Rebel: One Thousand Years of Trouble-making from the Normans to the Nineties [Paperback]

David Horspool
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 April 2010

The English have a rich and glorious history of making trouble for themselves. One hundred and forty years before the French Revolution, the English executed their king and instituted a radical revolutionary government. In 1215, more than 570 years before the United States ratified its Bill of Rights, England's barons forced King John to accept the Magna Carta. In 1926 over 1.5 million strikers brought the nation to its knees.

From the Peasants' Revolt to the suffragettes, from Oliver Cromwell to Arthur Scargill, this ground-breaking and hugely enjoyable book describes a rich and continuous tradition of resistance, rebellion and radicalism, of violent and charismatic individuals with axes to grind, and of social eruptions and political earthquakes that have shaped England's whole culture and character.


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The English Rebel: One Thousand Years of Trouble-making from the Normans to the Nineties + A Radical History Of Britain: Visionaries, Rebels and Revolutionaries - the men and women who fought for our freedoms
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Product details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141025476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141025476
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 12.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A superb losers' history of England [told] with narrative verve and delicious detail (Ferdinand Mount )

An unfailingly lucid, immensely readable, and above-all clear-eyed account of an indomitable strand in our national story (David Kynaston )

An exciting, accessible story. Horspool uncovers the hearty, dangerous energy of British politics. We are a nation of rebels, whose history has been shaped by stirrers of every kind (Diane Purkiss )

Highly impressive. Could almost be a one-volume guide to English history. (Noel Malcolm Sunday Telegraph )

Full of wit and scholarship (Peter Ackroyd The Times )

Review

'A superb losers' history of England - two-thirds of the main characters end up on the scaffold or the gallows - written with narrative verve and delicious detail' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE ENGLISH REBEL 13 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover
A smashing read. This is almost `Our Island History' for the seriously vexed and inordinately peeved. With all due respect to our Irish, Scots and Welsh cousins, the English have been fighting against our own government longer than anybody else. This fast paced book is a potted history of the growth of English government and the attempts to keep it under control from Norman times to the nineties. It shows the development of opposition to government from the self-interest of the barons to the appealing to the higher power that monarchy claimed through to right of the ordinary man in the street to have his voice heard. The common thread of the rebel is the `commonwealth' or ` community, the rebellions of the Reformation, the Peasants revolt or Magna Carta to name but a few of the revolts that would make you believe that this country is a seething mass of discontent ready to erupt at any time (which in a way it has). Equally good at pointing out examples of how chance and opportunity play there part in events, Horspool also points to a geographic continuity that certain areas have, such as Clerkenwell in London, in drawing in rebels. The other area of continuity that he points to is that of example. Rebels always appeal to past examples, whether it was the poll tax rioters of the nineties casting back to the Peasants Revolt or the appeals to Magna Carta that even the Americans appealed to in their revolt (after all, they regarded themselves as Britons living in America with a direct link to the English political past. That's why there's a mural of Simon de Montfort in the House of Representatives). Perhaps that's why the English have a reputation for being so well-mannered. We have to keep that seething mass of emotion in check to stop ourselves from running amok!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let's hear it for troublemakers 18 Sep 2009
By Bryher
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very entertaining and informative book. Given that it cover a thousand years of English history, none of the rebellions, riots, marches and civil disturbances it chronicles get much space, but within these confines, the author does a fantastic job in giving the facts, extracting the meaning and consequences and charting the myths, in elegant, sturdy prose. He has a great writing style. It is very well structured to show the thread of memory, historic fact and myth that ties together outbursts of troublemaking, principled or otherwise, from opposition to the Norman Conquest to opposition to the Poll Tax (er - sorry, Community Charge). With splendid notes on sources and suggestions for further reading, this is almost the perfect rebellion spotters' guide!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great twist on English History 3 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love this book. It's easy to read, informative and in places quite exciting. The story of rebellions by nobles and peasants throughout history, from the Norman Conquest through to the industrial and political struggles of the 20th century, which seem very contemporary with the disputes over tuition fees and cuts. It gives an insight into the evolution of protest against government and outlines the main characters who rebelled. Cracking stuff!
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Accurate - uninspiring? 29 May 2010
Format:Paperback
I should confess that I haven't read this book from cover to cover. My review is a personal response to the book's angle and tone, but I hope this may guide other potential readers.

This book is a beautifully written and doubtless accurate history of english rebellion. It constitutes an alternative history of the country from the normans onward. The author's academic credentials are superb.

I'm trying to work out why it left me uninspired. I was certainly educated, but ininspired. Perhaps I shouldn't have been looking for inspiration - my fault.

The author sketches the rebels' attitudes and motives in an accurate but dead way. For example the 15th century rebels under Jack Cade were motivated by the desire for a "more trustworhy world, where legal procedure and everyday life no longer depended on the whim of those who bent the king's ear." Very good. But that's all we hear, and we move back into an account of events at a national political level. I would think it fascinating to know about what it would like - horrifying - to live a life dependent on venal local lawgivers. How hard it might be, and how incredibly tough it would be to rebel, in a nation where the word 'traitor' was roughly the equivalent of the modern "paedophile". How desperate were these people? How gutsy were these people? You'll never know from this book. But you will know about the battles, legal wrangles and executions.

Later, during the match girls' strike of 1888, the author notes that a lot of the activism came from "a middle class-outsider like Annie Besant, whose assaults on convention included living apart from her estranged husband and loudly champoining atheism and contraception, rather than from the workers themselves." Could this be any more sniffy and dismissive?
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9 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Potted History 10 Sep 2009
By Neutral VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This is a very disappointing book written in a style that is neither historical nor journalistic and barely able to gain a B minus at undergraduate level. I had to read it twice to make sure that my rating was not simply a reflection of an anticipated good read followed by acute disappointment. It is in fact potted history at its worst.

I was left wondering whether 400 pages was necessary to make the point that the English have an aggressive "bloody mindedness" which breaks out from time to time in resistance to rule by those who think they know best. Horspool overlooks the age old tradition that "he is governed best who is governed least" and fails to draw that simple lesson from the decline in electoral politics.

Recent examples, such as the Angry Brigade's fruitless situationalist philosophy and Arthur Scargill's determination to fulfil mythical Trotskyite prophecies of the overthrow of capitalism, provide proof that numerous rebellions represented the deluded rantings of individual demagogues. It was not for nothing that an observer of the Chartist movement noted how the pages of The Northern Star were filled by Feargus O'Connor's favourable descriptions of Feargus O'Connor!!!! In many cases the rebels went on to become pillars of the establishment.

All conflict, whether from personal interest or as an expression of popular discontent, are essentially battles for political power and few have been successful in seizing it. Cromwell may have had Charles Stuart executed but the latter's son was restored to the throne after the Protector's death. The popular response to French Jacobinism demonstrated the basic conservatism of the British people against the call for extra-parliamentary action.
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