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4.2 out of 5 stars91
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 5 December 2014
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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on 3 December 2000
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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on 23 October 2000
Like the other readers I cant recommend this highly enough. It complements the series wonderfully, indeed adds to it in some respects. However I can't really say that I agree with the comment that 'This book is England, it is us'. Afterall it is entitled, "The History of Britain" and it certainly opened my eyes to issues directly relating to the history of not only England (the dominant force maybe) but also my country (Scotland) and indeed Wales, Ireland, France and much much more.
A great insight into life in medeival Europe, and a look at the real lives of major historical figures as opposed to the Hollywood nonsense and it shatters some of the myths that so many Britains cling to today.
If you have kids who have any interest in history this is a fabulous account of their heritage (assuming they are British of course ;) ) and equally engrossing for adults, especially those who didnt pay too much attention in history class like me :)
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on 16 July 2013
Great overview of the history of England (Wales, Scotland and Ireland are no more than bit players) from ancient to Elizabethan times. Due to the scope of the book Schama does skip over some details like Henry V's excursion into France after Agincourt and Francis Drake, Walter Ralegh and Shakespeare are barely mentioned. However there are obviously other history books that serve to flesh out anything not covered in this tome. I loved the book and I've already downloaded the other two of the series. Well done and thank you to Simon Schama.
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on 9 November 2000
I agree with many of the criticisms that have already been voiced, if history had been taught like this in our schools I think a great many more of us would have appreciated exactly where we've come from and how deep and rich our past is. It's a shame that Britain couldn't retain some kind of unity and that Scotland, Wales, England and even Ireland have grown almost to hate each other. Bring back Britannia, I say!!!
This is a superb read and a great reservoir of information. Buy it immediately or you're not one of us!!!!
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on 15 November 2000
I know someone who sudied History up to GCSE (and got an A* in the exam) and jokes that their knowledge of British history is The Industrial Revolution, WW2: sans holocaust as it was 'too sensitive an issue' their school to teach, and the Industrial revolution! I do not know whether national curriculm history is usually taught in this way or if my friend's teacher was inept (come back Chris Woodhead all is forgiven!). As I am a few years older, I was taught the old way and even though some of the names and events in A History of Britain are familar to me I nevertheless enjoyed the way in which Schama presents them. I enjoyed Schama's 'voice' throughout the book making the subject entertaining without too much dumbing down. Maybe schools could adopt the work as a text book?
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on 3 October 2003
I caught little bits of Schama's history of Britain series on BBC2 and as a result decided to tackle this historical opus. I'm not a regular reader of history, but this was fascinating stuff. Schama pitches the text at just the right level - detailing enough of the scandal, intrigue, sex and violence of our past to make it a ghripping page-turner, but without ever resorting to cheap sensationalism.
This first volume covers from pre-History to the Elizabethan age. Sometimes it's a shame that things move a little too quickly - but then that's probably a result of the source material being more scant than for later periods.
It's a gripping start to an overwhelming yarn - made all the more exciting that the evidence is all around us.
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on 5 January 2001
I read Schama's book in 2 days while recovering from Christmas excesses. It is well written and an entertaining romp through a history of English politics. Wales, Scotland and Wales feature only as they impact on England so that I can understand readers objecting to the title. Sometimes - inevitably - I wanted some more background. Also - why did so many aristocrats engage in political adventurism taking them to the executioner's block?
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on 20 February 2010
I've just read the book again for the nth time. I love it, and much more than the other two volumes put together. This really is my definition of early history - a series of thrilling stories and often perverse and bizarre characters, all painted with a quirky lightness of touch by a master historian. His use of modern slang terms adds a pleasingly discordant note at times, and in my opinion the book is a genuine page-turner.

Sellars and Yeatman said, I think, that History is what you remember. I remember more each time I read this enthralling work.
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on 14 December 2000
I would echo the view that Schama has encapsulated the essence of British history upto the Union of the Crowns quite brilliantly. By its very nature, the exercise has to be selective, but the broad themes are well argued. Also, as a Scot, I think the balance is fair. There is far too much sensitivity on the England/Scotland "divide". Neither is homogeneous within itself, so why should there be homogeneity between them - we still have far more in common with each other than with others!
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