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95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History that teaches and delights, 13 Sept. 2005
This review is from: Our Island Story: A History of Britain for Boys and Girls, from the Romans to Queen Victoria (Hardcover)
'In this book you will find the story of the people of Britain', writes the author. She continues: 'The story tells how they grew to be a great people, till the little green island set in the lonely sea was no longer large enough to contain them.'
This is big, bold sweeping history, at once charmingly simple and accessible for children and sufficiently courteous and informative for adults. HE Marshall guides us through from the earliest myths about Albion and Brutus through to the death of Queen Victoria, taking in wars and rebellions, tyrants and outlaws, treachery and love, the evolution of our liberal democracy and the deaths of those who fought for the freedoms that we enjoy today. With a deftness of tone that most writers can only dream of, Marshall's prose is equal to the challenge of expressing tenderness for the Princes in the Tower, and pride for Boadicea - 'the Romans', she points out, 'did not understand that many of the women of Britain were as brave and as wise as the men, and quite as difficult to conquer.' It is unashamedly proud without ever sounding arrogant. We learn how all sorts of great moments or phrases have passed into our folklore and idiom - such as 'England expects' - and all is rendered with an impressive sense of chronological cohesion.
Which is of course topical and explains why this glossy centenary edition has been republished. At a time of great anxiety about how poor is the teaching of history in our schools, how it has become fragmentary and partial, this book shows just how history could foster a shared sense of national identity. As politicians and academics witter on pompously, unclear about how to deliver the most important elements in history - the chronology, which makes it intelligible, and the stories, which make it memorable - Our Island Story offers itself as an answer. For young and old alike, passionate, energised history is engaging and invigorating. Indeed, I've lost count of the number of people who have recommended this book to me, particularly parents who read their childhood copies to their children as an excuse to revisit it themselves, and it's been the subject of numerous newspaper and radio panegyrics in recent months. Our Island Story is perhaps more literature than history - I suspect HE Marshall would have preferred it to be thought of in this way - and as such it would have also pleased Sir Philip Sidney: it both teaches and delights.
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Location: London

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