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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A FANTASTIC COMPANION ON A LONG JOURNEY
Sub titled - A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Great Britain, this is a splendid, very reasonably priced, handy sized volume that will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those with only the slightest interest in history. It is a fun and easy to read publication that I found ideal to take on my travels as it is the type of book you...
Published on 17 July 2008 by Michael David Booker

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chopped into small digestible chunks
This is not as well written as Mike Ashley's book British Kings and Queens, and it irritates sometimes; for instance, calling the Gunpowder Plotters England's first "terrorists", a word that seems to stretch beyond breaking simply for writers to create hate figures. It also quotes Mike Ashley when recounting the slippage of Joan of Kent's garter while Edward III was...
Published on 18 Nov. 2009 by Eileen Shaw


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A FANTASTIC COMPANION ON A LONG JOURNEY, 17 July 2008
This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
Sub titled - A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Great Britain, this is a splendid, very reasonably priced, handy sized volume that will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those with only the slightest interest in history. It is a fun and easy to read publication that I found ideal to take on my travels as it is the type of book you can so easily put down and then pick it up again where you left off without any difficulty.

In a nutshell, just about every period in English history is covered in this compact publication and therefore it is an excellent general read and an companion for any student at secondary school level upwards, as it will be sure to give them a fascinating overview of England's vast historical heritage and perhaps act as an aide-memoir to their studies too.

The author has successfully re-written historical fact, consolidated it and has now presented it a form that is still not only factual, but is also easy to understand and in many cases is witty too.

All in all a good read and a must for those long journeys on trains, boats and planes and evenings alone in hotel rooms away from home. Don't leave it lying around however, as someone will be sure to make off with it!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Once upon a time....", 15 May 2008
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
What we have here is a collection of historical material that was originally published in three separate volumes. Robert Lacey introduces it with some especially interesting comments: "There may be such a thing as pure, true - what actually, begin italics] definitely [end italics] happened in the past - but it is unknowable. We can only hope to get somewhere close. The history that we have to make do with is the story that historians chose to tell us, pieced together and filtered through every handler's value system." With that acknowledgment, Lacey then reassures his reader that the tales he shares are true, based on "the best available contemporary sources and eyewitness accounts" rather than on revisionist versions decades and even centuries later. his approach to this book was not cynical: "it is written, and recounted for you now by an eternal optimist - albeit one who views the evidence with skeptical eye...the things we do not know about history far outnumbers those that we do. But the fragments that survive are precious and bright. They offer us glimpses of drama, humour, incompetence, bravery, apathy, sorrow, and lust - the stuff of life. There are still a few good tales to tell..."

Each of the hundreds of tales Lacey shares averages 3-5 pages in length and covers a period that begins with "Cheddar Man" (c. 7150) and concludes with "Decoding the Secret of Life " (1953), indeed offering "a treasury of true stories about extraordinary people - knights and knaves, rebels and heroes, queens and commoners - who made Britain Great." Before reading this book for the first time, as I always do, I checked out the table of contents and then began to cherry pick entries that immediately caught my eye, such as "The Legend of Lady Godiva," "Murder in the Cathedral," "Geoffrey Chaucer and the Mother Tongue," "Thomas More and His Wonderful `No Place,'" "Elizabeth Queen of Hearts," "Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada," "Isaac Newton and the Principles of the Universe," "Thomas Paine and the Rights of Man," "Rain, Steam, and Speed - the Shimmering Vision of J.M.W. Turner," The Greatest History Book Ever," and "The Battle of Britain - the Few and the Many." Reading those took less than an hour so the next time I took up the book, reading other accounts that dated from "The Legend of Lady Godiva," c. AD 1043. Then I eventually returned to re-read "Cheddar Man" (c. 7150) and the accounts that followed. In the future, I will probably re-read all of the accounts (nor more than two or three at a time), with the selection depending on my mood of the moment and what interests me then.

Here in Dallas, we have a "Farmers Market" area near downtown at which merchants graciously offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In the same spirit, I now offer a few "slices" of Lacey's wit and style, provided in chronological order.

"...in the village of Berkeley, tales were told of hideous screams ringing out from the castle on the night of 21 September and some years later one John Trevisa, who had been a boy at the time, revealed what had actually happened. Trevisa had grown up to take holy orders and become chaplain and confessor to the King's jailer, Thomas Lord Berkeley, so he was well placed to solve the mystery. There were no marks of illness or violence to the King's body, he wrote, because Edward was killed `with a hoote brooche [meat-roasting spit] put into the secret place posterialle.'"(Piers Gaveston and Edward II, 1308)

"Many of Caxton's spelling decisions and those of the printers who came after him were quite arbitrary. As they attached letters to sounds they followed no particular rules and we live with the consequences to this day. So if you have ever wondered why a bandage is `wound' around a `wound', why `cough' rhymes with `off', while `bough' rhymes with `cow', and why you might shed a `tear' after seeing a `tear' in your best dress or skirt, you have William Caxton to thank." (William Caxton, 1474)

"Imagine that you have been devoting your principal energies for nearly twenty years to a Very Big Idea - a concept so revolutionary that it will transform the way the human race looks at itself. And then one morning, you open a letter from someone you scarcely know (someone, to be honest, you never took seriously) to discover that he has come up with exactly the same idea - and has picked you as the person to help him announce it to the world." (Charles Darwin and the Survival of the Fittest, 1858)

"Winston Churchill wrote all his own speeches. He would spend as many as six or eight hours polishing and rehearsing his words to get the right impact - and it was worth the effort...He cracked jokes: `When I warned them [the French government] that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did,' he related at the end of December 1941, `their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken. `Some chicken! [Pause] Some neck!'" (Voice of the People, 1945)

I envy anyone who shares my interest in English history who has not as yet begun to explore the material that Robert Lacey has so carefully assembled and then presented in this volume.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English history and all that!, 1 July 2008
This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
I love this book. I've just finished reading it and like any good book it leaves me wanting to read more. Luckily enough the section at the back gives the interested reader some suggestions for further reading for each section. For me it has sparked an interest in the Arthurian legend, medieval Britain and the Tudor period. Until reading this book I would have described my historical interests as either Roman/Byzantium, Victorian or anything other than British history.

For a long time I have been embarrassed by my ignorance of English/British history. I decided to read this book as a first step to correct that, and it has helped me understand and put in context many areas of British history. Of course it skates over periods of time at an astonishing rate, but for me that was part of the pleasure of reading it, I could cover a hundred years in about 20 minutes.

This book is ideally laid out for the modern reader. Each topic is reduced to 2-3 pages, there is no extraneous waffle and Robert Lacey's style is clear, succinct and enjoyable. I read this book mostly whilst travelling on a bus to work or late at night and its lightweight style was just right.

I'm not sure what version Amazon are describing here but my Abacus copy published in 2007 had 520 pages not 288. The dimensions are as above.

Enjoy!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable complement to scholarly history books, 15 April 2010
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This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
Some history books can flood the reader with details, names, kings and queens, prime ministers and what not, in an attempt to be as comprehensive and unbiased as possible (both ends usually prove to be just beyond the author's capabilities). Alas, the anecdotal, digestible and entertaining side of history then often goes to the wall.
So I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover this book which serves as a great complement to all those history books that give you the facts but little else. It adds spice and a considerable amount of colour to some major but often also minor items of history. A great asset is that, although the layout is chronological, you don't have to read it that way. You can dip into it, race from Captain Oates to Blenheim, from Bosworth Field to Dr Crippen, from Caedmon to Dunkirk. It helps of course if you have some knowledge of English history to put some things in their proper perspective, but this is not an absolute prerequisite. Lacey's style of writing is engaging and accessible and he has a knack of telling you in just a few lines where you are and with whom and what's going on, and I found (and find) it very hard to put the book down once I've started reading in it. I have only one, minor, complaint: even with 453 pages (not counting the bibliography, preface, index etc.) I find it a bit short and I reverently ask Mr. Lacey (paraphrasing Oliver Twist): can we have some more please?
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really Interesting Snippets of History, 22 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
Not, obviously, going to turn you into Simon Schama overnight. If you like reading interesting stories from English history without all the boring bits like dates, complex social forces, and interminable family trees, perhaps you really want to read a novel instead. But don't let me put you off this book of stories from history. Highly readable, well written, and short enough to read just before bed. Probably a good way to spark a deeper interest in English history?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it..., 26 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
I love history but, often get a bit bogged down with all the dates etc. This book was really good at just giving enough info. I have recommended it to all my friends and basically ramming it down there neck. Really good well impresed. May be a bit basic if you are already a history buff, but, well worth the money. Smashing!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chopped into small digestible chunks, 18 Nov. 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
This is not as well written as Mike Ashley's book British Kings and Queens, and it irritates sometimes; for instance, calling the Gunpowder Plotters England's first "terrorists", a word that seems to stretch beyond breaking simply for writers to create hate figures. It also quotes Mike Ashley when recounting the slippage of Joan of Kent's garter while Edward III was dancing with her, almost word for word. The level of writing is sometimes patronising and my assumption is that it was written to be easily read by those who do not normally read history books - teenagers, perhaps - which might explain the frequent comparisons of modern situations with those of the past, presumably to give context to those who know little history.

Having said that, this is often a lively read. It covers the 19th century, for instance, with short, summary pieces about: Thomas Paine, Captain Cook, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ned Ludd, the first Railways, the Peterloo massacre, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Darwin, Annie Besant, J M W Turner, the Charge of the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale, among others. Each era from Cheddar Man (c.7150BC) to the discovery of DNA by Crick and Watson (in 1953), is presented as a fund of stories, though the earlier pieces are mainly an account of the lives of kings and queens.

Subtitled: A Treasury of True Stories - the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great, it doesn't quite do what it says on the tin. On the plus side it is chopped up into small digestible chunks and covers the sizeable distance of history with élan and some inspired choice representative dates, people and events.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Keep It on the Bedside Table, 26 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
This an excellent book. Full of stories of incidents in English history from 7000 BC to discovering DNA in 1953. Each story is about three to five pages and yet in every case is surprisingly informative. They are easy to read, as well. I don't know of any other book that I can compare with this and that makes it all the more valuable.
This is an ideal bedside book which you can dip into at will to read a single story or half-a-dozen if you can't get off to sleep. The stories are arranged chronologically and if you remember everything in this book, you will have a considerable general knowledge of English history over nearly ten thousand years. Great value too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Tales of Great Britain, 21 April 2012
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This book is compulsive, accessible reading reading, yet informative. History for people who think they don't like history. The author manages to maintain a neutral position on contentious matters while writing in a very relaxed, sometimes tongue-in-cheek style. The selection of events is interesting. I'm instantly reading it through a second time (though I'm also too hard-up to keep buying books - which is the type of balancing comment frequently encountered in the book).
Highly recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful (alternative) History Book, 31 Mar. 2012
By 
Tim Chaney "soloinsoho" (Madrid) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Great Tales From English History: Cheddar Man to DNA: A Treasury of True Stories of the Extraordinary People Who Made Britain Great (Paperback)
We all know (or did at school!) the history of our great land with many stories and legends told and retold, through the centuries. Lacey's superb book take these events, and puts a different slant and an alternative context to many of them. It is easy reading and enlightenment abounds. The book finishes with the discovery of DNA in 1953 and I was urging for it not to finish to cover some of events in my lifetime.
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