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The Thames: England's River Hardcover – 24 Feb 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First edition. Hardback. Dust jacket. edition (24 Feb. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316861391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316861397
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,796,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

This resplendent book combines a dramatist's empathy with people and a scholar's devotion to facts . . . A magnificent, multi-layered achievement, a 'must-read (for all lovers of London’)

Liza Picard, author of DR JOHNSON'S LONDON, RESTORATION LONDON and ELIZABETH'S LONDON (‘Here is a rich and satisfying riverbank picnic of a book. The narrative sparkles and gurgles like the river itself’)

Robert Lacey, author of GREAT TALES FROM ENGLISH HISTORY (*‘Beautifully written, wide-ranging and rich in anecdote, Schneer’s history of the nation’s most famous river flows effortlessly, merging its waters with the ebb and flow of English history’)

John Brewer ('Elegantly recounted, with an eye for vivid detail that sticks in the mind’)

Book Description

Combining well-chosen historical stories, strong characters and thrilling events, THE THAMES reveals a vital, yet silent, figure that has helped shape British history.

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First Sentence
The sea ends, the river starts, somewhere inside the great, wide, funnel-shaped estuary called the Nore, whose easternmost boundaries we set arbitrarily at Whitstable on the south, and Foulness Point on the north; somewhere within this vast basin at the edge of the Thames where the English fleet used to anchor, sails furled, ropes coiled, taking on supplies and waiting for orders. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 31 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Schneer writes in his introduction that there are lots of books on the Thames, but most are either highly specialised (tomes on flood control, environmental concerns, economic impact, etc.) or rather out of date. Schneer's intention with this book was to provide a more general, and more generally accessible, book on what is perhaps one of the most important rivers in history, with an impact that far outweighs it relative length. Schneer points out that most other major rivers (the Mississippi, the Danube, the Yang-tze, the Ganges, etc.) have major impact, but not the kind of dominating presence on their surrounding cultures that the Thames has had on its (perhaps the best comparison would be with the Nile, perhaps the only other river that was central to defining the culture of the lands around it).

Schneer begins with the prehistoric and early historic settlements and influence of the Thames, and how it has been seen by Celts and early peoples, Romans, Angles and Saxons, Danes and Jutes, Normans and Middle Englishmen, Renaissance and Reformation people, all the way up to modern times when German bombers used the outline of the river to find London, and modern governments have seen the Thames as the gateway to Europe. Chapters go in a logical, chronological progression, and describe in socio-economic and historical narratives how the culture around the river ebbed and flowed, just as the river would rise and fall. Some seems a bit further afield than discussion of the river might require, but then, this is more of a labour of love for the English culture, of which the river Thames is certainly apart, but in fact the book is geared more toward the understanding of the history and culture itself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
There are a myriad of books on the river Thames and so there should be. It is arguably England's primary river not least because the capital city of the country sits astride the river, relatively close to the mouth of the estuary, thus making London a thriving port and a catchments area for ships from all over the world. Most of the books available are on a particular subject regarding the river. Maybe pubs adjacent to the river; artistic scenes of the river; flood barriers etc. This book is more general volume that goes into detail about the river itself, its effect on the land and the people surrounding it.

The author begins with prehistoric and early settlements, the influence the people had on the river and vice versa. People from all periods of English history have used the river the benefit their lives, from the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and the Normans, some of the latter using the river to their own advantage, i.e. being able to get to the capital of the country directly from the sea. Even in more modern times German bombers used the outline of the Thames to guide them to London for their bombing raids.

The author goes so far as to suggest that of all the major rivers in the world, the Thames can most easily be compared to the Nile as having the most influence on the people and culture that surrounds it. The river has affected virtually every aspect of the lives and culture of the people close to it. The book was an absolute joy to read, even for someone who lives more than 200 miles from the Thames.
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By Mr. C. Briffa on 5 Aug. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting mixture of history and facts
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 31 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Schneer writes in his introduction that there are lots of books on the Thames, but most are either highly specialised (tomes on flood control, environmental concerns, economic impact, etc.) or rather out of date. Schneer's intention with this book was to provide a more general, and more generally accessible, book on what is perhaps one of the most important rivers in history, with an impact that far outweighs it relative length. Schneer points out that most other major rivers (the Mississippi, the Danube, the Yang-tze, the Ganges, etc.) have major impact, but not the kind of dominating presence on their surrounding cultures that the Thames has had on its (perhaps the best comparison would be with the Nile, perhaps the only other river that was central to defining the culture of the lands around it).

Schneer begins with the prehistoric and early historic settlements and influence of the Thames, and how it has been seen by Celts and early peoples, Romans, Angles and Saxons, Danes and Jutes, Normans and Middle Englishmen, Renaissance and Reformation people, all the way up to modern times when German bombers used the outline of the river to find London, and modern governments have seen the Thames as the gateway to Europe. Chapters go in a logical, chronological progression, and describe in socio-economic and historical narratives how the culture around the river ebbed and flowed, just as the river would rise and fall. Some seems a bit further afield than discussion of the river might require, but then, this is more of a labour of love for the English culture, of which the river Thames is certainly apart, but in fact the book is geared more toward the understanding of the history and culture itself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Thames: The roles of the river 13 July 2007
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this 'biography' of the Thames and its multiple roles. Descriptions of frost fairs and of swan upping, together with the role the river played in better known historical events were all engaging and interesting.

Recounting of tragedies including the 'Great Stink' of 1858 and the impacts of the surge tide in 1953 served as reminders that nature does not always lend herself to the control of man.

But most of all, the opportunity to read about the Thames as a primary character rather than as a secondary backdrop to other events made this an enjoyable, and informative, reading experience.

Highly recommended to all with an interest in the history, geography and character of the UK.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song 31 May 2006
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Schneer writes in his introduction that there are lots of books on the Thames, but most are either highly specialised (tomes on flood control, environmental concerns, economic impact, etc.) or rather out of date. Schneer's intention with this book was to provide a more general, and more generally accessible, book on what is perhaps one of the most important rivers in history, with an impact that far outweighs it relative length. Schneer points out that most other major rivers (the Mississippi, the Danube, the Yang-tze, the Ganges, etc.) have major impact, but not the kind of dominating presence on their surrounding cultures that the Thames has had on its (perhaps the best comparison would be with the Nile, perhaps the only other river that was central to defining the culture of the lands around it).

Schneer begins with the prehistoric and early historic settlements and influence of the Thames, and how it has been seen by Celts and early peoples, Romans, Angles and Saxons, Danes and Jutes, Normans and Middle Englishmen, Renaissance and Reformation people, all the way up to modern times when German bombers used the outline of the river to find London, and modern governments have seen the Thames as the gateway to Europe. Chapters go in a logical, chronological progression, and describe in socio-economic and historical narratives how the culture around the river ebbed and flowed, just as the river would rise and fall. Some seems a bit further afield than discussion of the river might require, but then, this is more of a labour of love for the English culture, of which the river Thames is certainly apart, but in fact the book is geared more toward the understanding of the history and culture itself.

The Thames features in art, music and literature - the book contains a generous collection of print reproductions, both black-and-white as well as colour plates of artists such as Turner, Canaletto, Spencer, and more. Handel's Water Music is one of the better-known pieces from the time, inspired by the river, and literature past and present draws from its inspirational depths (Edmund Spenser's 'Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song' was used by Ewan McCall as title for his song, 'Sweet Thames, flow softly'; also, author Matthew Kneale uses it for one of his works of fiction).

'More generally the Thames's accumulation of meanings over the centuries, its interconnectedness with so much history, has linked it with evolving understandings of the nation and its heritage. Britons identify themselves as heirs to a record through which the river has always run.'

This is an interesting, accessible, and well-written general book detailing various strands of English culture with a connection of the river Thames. The writing flows well with a cup of tea.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song 31 May 2006
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Schneer writes in his introduction that there are lots of books on the Thames, but most are either highly specialised (tomes on flood control, environmental concerns, economic impact, etc.) or rather out of date. Schneer's intention with this book was to provide a more general, and more generally accessible, book on what is perhaps one of the most important rivers in history, with an impact that far outweighs it relative length. Schneer points out that most other major rivers (the Mississippi, the Danube, the Yang-tze, the Ganges, etc.) have major impact, but not the kind of dominating presence on their surrounding cultures that the Thames has had on its (perhaps the best comparison would be with the Nile, perhaps the only other river that was central to defining the culture of the lands around it).

Schneer begins with the prehistoric and early historic settlements and influence of the Thames, and how it has been seen by Celts and early peoples, Romans, Angles and Saxons, Danes and Jutes, Normans and Middle Englishmen, Renaissance and Reformation people, all the way up to modern times when German bombers used the outline of the river to find London, and modern governments have seen the Thames as the gateway to Europe. Chapters go in a logical, chronological progression, and describe in socio-economic and historical narratives how the culture around the river ebbed and flowed, just as the river would rise and fall. Some seems a bit further afield than discussion of the river might require, but then, this is more of a labour of love for the English culture, of which the river Thames is certainly apart, but in fact the book is geared more toward the understanding of the history and culture itself.

The Thames features in art, music and literature - the book contains a generous collection of print reproductions, both black-and-white as well as colour plates of artists such as Turner, Canaletto, Spencer, and more. Handel's Water Music is one of the better-known pieces from the time, inspired by the river, and literature past and present draws from its inspirational depths (Edmund Spenser's 'Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song' was used by Ewan McCall as title for his song, 'Sweet Thames, flow softly'; also, author Matthew Kneale uses it for one of his works of fiction).

'More generally the Thames's accumulation of meanings over the centuries, its interconnectedness with so much history, has linked it with evolving understandings of the nation and its heritage. Britons identify themselves as heirs to a record through which the river has always run.'

This is an interesting, accessible, and well-written general book detailing various strands of English culture with a connection of the river Thames. The writing flows well with a cup of tea.
Thames forever. 9 July 2014
By Jeanne Vince - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love this river. Was raised by the Mississippi, and the Thames was always a source of joy to me as I walked along its banks for eight years. Nicely written with lots of history and stories I never knew. Arrived in perfect condition.
4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Slender Thread 3 Aug. 2005
By Christian Schlect - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book an uneven effort, addressing very different topics, with these topics at times only tenuously connected to the great English river. It is more a book of essays on London or broader English social history--with the notion of the Thames included in all, whether needed or not. For example, the exploits of London's red mayor, Ken Livingstone, do not strike me as being central to the book's title. Some of the chapters are very good at explaining some interesting aspect or another of the history of England, like the infamous prison hulks once located on the Thames, flood control, and fine art as inspired by the ancient river. Professor Schneer is not a fan of the modern Conservative party and this bias is reflected in the final chapters.
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