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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well informed
I've been moved to review this item mainly in response to the only other review on this site having awarded it one star, and seemingly holding against Simon Schama personally the misguided and belligerant conduct of kings.

Certainly this work is a whirlwind tour of history. A lack of detail may be a partial downfall but this is inevitable when faced with the...
Published on 4 Mar. 2010 by R. P. Caulfield

versus
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very much like the curate's egg - good in parts
however:-
Despite considerable detail about the French component of the English nation in earlier chapters, along with the campaigns and consequences, the Hundred Years War only gets mentioned by name!
My main irritation however, and the complete spoiling of the book for me, is the fact that the first third is quite good, and the last third OK, but the middle...
Published on 12 April 2001


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last an honest History of Britain, 26 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
So many in the past have been more of a History of England in all but name. Scharma at least attempts to put the whole thing into perpective.
As for Edward the First, I think Scharma probably paints a more realistic picture of the man than many other general histories and many of his apologists. Although he may have been known as the 'most chivalrous knight' in chrstendom that had more to do with the number of mounted trops in his armies than his gentility. It isn't possible to do full justice to any historical character in such a work, but he does his best here, emphasising Edwards piety and love for his wife. ( Mind I know some really nasty religious types so thats no guide). Scharma also shows 'The Bruce' as the ambitious, conniving character that he was and reminds us that history is never as black and white as some would have us believe.
The rest of the book is also a wonderful insight into the realities of medieval life across Britain and Europe. I can heartily recommend it to all BRITISH citizens as the best general history of these islands. I can't wait to see the second volume. (I only wish I could have seen the TV series. I bought the book at the airport and read half of it on the way out)
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good, detailed and interesting book, that works!, 15 Oct. 2013
Firstly, this book is more like 55 BC - 1603 AD, as anything before 55 BC gets a couple of pages. One thing I noticed about the text is that is uses intellectual and articulate language, a bit too much for a layman like me. I found that as I was reading it I often became confused, and felt that the history wasn't really going in. However, don't be put off, as I found that when I read a Wikipedia article on a subject (to clear up what I had just read in the book), I actually found that my knowledge of the subject was much more in depth than I had thought. So what I am saying is that although the text can be quite elaborate and confusing, the knowledge does actually go in there somewhere. In this way the book achieves its education of history. I can't say that I have a detailed chronological knowledge of British history (or a time-line), but my knowledge is certainly much more in depth. The book covers just about every major event in British history very well and in depth, especially the events you remember from school, such as the Norman invasion and Thomas Becket. It covers all monarchs in British history logically and chronologically. I did think however that the War of the Roses didn't get a lot of attention. All in all, I would definitely recommend this book, and will probably read the other two books in the trilogy.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, 22 Aug. 2001
By A Customer
I really liked this book that proved a history book could be read like a novel. I couldn't wait to start reading it every evening. I have seen some of the comments of other reviewers concerning the abundance of English as opposed to British history and would say this. Most of the important events of this time period occured in England and so the concentration of events and people in England is understandable. I feel the objections are mainly expressed out of a sense of national (either Welsh, Scottish or Irish) pride. Also the book does cover the important events in these other country's histories. Schama does a good job on making history accessable to the reader - good job!
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A thematic approach, 10 May 2005
By 
Mrs. D. J. Smith "eowyngreenleaf" (Luton, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Schama's History of Britain was written to accompany the series of the same name. This first volume takes us up as far as 1603 and the death of Elizabeth I. The chapters in the book are long, and rather than a chronological Kings & Queens focus, Sharma has chosen themes, which coincide with the episodes of the television series. I do not wish to criticise this as an approach, because it does take a fresh approach to the subjects covered, but on the other hand it means that this is not a fully comprehensive History of Britain, indeed there is little on Scotland, Wales or Ireland, as such monumentous events as the Wars of the Roses are pretty much sidelined.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Book, 22 Dec. 2000
By A Customer
Simon Schama has a great gift for making history accessible and interesting. Ignore the carping comments from my fellow Scots about the book being mainly about England - whether we like it or not, the history of Britain (especially between the dates covered) was mainly about England. Scotland gets more than a fair amount of coverage in this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but too great a subject for the lone historian., 22 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
A noble effort and quite well written at that; however, given the scope of the undertaking it is unsurprising that Mr Schama's opus strikes a rather dilettante note. There is simply too much ground to be covered in the space allowed. Equally unfortunate is that Mr Schama does seem to have chosen the well-beaten path of the school history teacher: too many familiar names dusted down for the masses. What about a little eccentricity? For example, more than a passing reference to that old English bane of Normans, Hereward the Wake, would have gone down a treat. There is a lack of subtlety in the writing caused in the main by this role call of English history's favourites.
The treatment is predictable, too. Edward 1, probably the greatest English king, is portrayed, as usual, as an imperialistic tyrant. He was, indeed, a tough man, but he was also immensely popular with, and loyal to, his people. His severe treatment of those he believed to be the enemies of England was merciless, but, when set against the backdrop of an incredibly brutal time in history, could best be described as normal and appropriate. (And, in reference to Scotland, I think he said Bon bosoigne fait qy de merde se deliver - which is a tad more forthright that Mr Schama's translation would indicate).
In conclusion, I liked the book (and the TV series is pretty), but the whole is in no way as remarkable as it is cracked up to be.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Capers, 31 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
Simon Schama's "A History of Britain" is a rare historical event in its own right: it is a book which, rather than jump into historical events without due care or warning, is happier to guide the reader through by the hand. Schama is a historian who believes that the people who made the events happen are much more exciting and dramatic than the events themselves. Very well, we are all aware of the consequences which the Battle of Hastings had on the bearing of our history, but Schama's beautiful account given from the flanks of the English soldiers manages to evoke an emotion that draws us into the battle rather than forces us to sit on the sidelines as a casual observer. This technique of drawing the reader into the book is aided by Schama's casual, even laidback, style as well as his effortless and subtle sarcasm as we realise that the people who created our nations history are just that: people. Not images from paintings or quotes from historic texts, but real people with real emotions and ambitions.
If I had one critisism it would be that Schama lingers too much on the effect of the church - and we could argue that the book is merely a church-eye view of our society. However, considering the power of religion and the seriousness with which the role of God was taken by by our historical ancestors, it would be impossible to explore this subject from another direction given the vastness of the topic and the boundries of the text.
Overall, I would recommend this as a splendid book. Although it may not offer anything new or revolutionary to our more determined historian, it provides the rest of us with a gentle and satisfying introduction to the History of Britain.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should really be called the History of British Royalty, 22 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
History is not just about politics of the country and more specifically about the King (or Queen). It is also about the battles, the culture, the weather and events external to the country. Simon Schama does an excellent job encapsulating the thread that links the changes to throne through the ages, but misses many of the core causes of these changes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Both illuminating and entertaining., 5 Dec. 2014
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It might be an individual view of history but any history is going to have its limitations. This one is both intellectually a tour de force and very entertaining, especially as read by Timothy West, who brings life to every sentence, and a sense of humour to many. I started in the middle with 'The British Wars 1603-1776' which covers the smallest period but which I suspect is Simon Schama's favourite period. I went on to 'The Fate of Empire 1776-2000' and ended up with At the Edge of the World? - 3000BC-AD 1603 and am now listening to this mammoth 32 CD collection for the second time. I am so glad that a friend recommended it to me, and I have recommended it to friends who have been equally delighted.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good history about English monarchy not British history, 3 Dec. 2000
By 
happyhicks@aol.co.uk (Saddleworth, England) - See all my reviews
This is a very good book for a general overview of English history. The rise and fall of monarchs and the big events such as the Black Death are well covered. However the book fails to deal with Scottish and Welsh history and the fifteenth century is relegated to a couple of pages. The fifteenth century would have been a great opportunity to deal with Scotland and Wales. The 1400 Owen Glyn Dwr rebellion; James I, II and III augmentation of Scottish royal power . James II murder of Earl Douglas would all have been welcome inclusions. Despite the lack of Scottish and Welsh history the book is well written and the author has made some very good points and thoughts. He has a knack of making history accessible to most people which is a worthy aim in itself. If the book had been called a History of South East England then it would deserve 5 stars however as a History of Britain 4 stars.
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A History of Britain - Volume 1: At the Edge of the World? 3000 BC-AD 1603
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