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Foundation: The History of England Volume I by [Ackroyd, Peter]
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Foundation: The History of England Volume I Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in History of England (3 Book Series)
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Review

'In a handsome, book-lined room overlooking a quiet London square Peter Ackroyd is hard at work on what is probably the biggest non-fiction project of our times... In its scale, Ackroyd's project echoes the monumental histories of Churchill, Trevelya and Macaulay, but perhaps the closest parallel is Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire... He makes bold, flowing statements and conclusions that make the familiar, national story fresh again.' --The Bookseller

`Peerless prose and entertaining anecdotes'
--Tatler

`Foundation, which takes us from the court - and their bloody, dynastic game that played out over several centuries - to the land, its peoples and the formation of a national psyche over a millennium of relentless immigration combined with a steadfast attachment to custom. Continuity is one of Ackroyd's themes, in keeping with a writer always attuned to the footprint of a past that can't quite be seen. Foundation excels at a sort of historical patterning, as Ackroyd maps out the use of landscape, domestic lives and hard-wired English reflex for both violent revolt and bureaucratic administration.' --Metro

'The title choice of article - `The History', not `A History' - is telling. With `Foundation', Ackroyd makes a compelling case to be the country's next great chronicler..... As he moves from the Neolithic age to the death of Henry V11 in 1509, he creates such colourful images of hunters, gatherers, kings, knights, peasants and ploughman that we can imagine he lived through every century himself... Five volumes more of this? I can't wait.' Book of the Week, 4* --Time Out

'Ackroyd's trademark insight and wit, and the glorious interconnectedness of all things, permeate each page.' --Observer

'Every page throngs with chewy quotations, unexpected facts and conjectures, granular detail. His richly coloured prose - he has a showman's forgivable weakness for the superlative - wraps it all up compellingly...' --Spectator

'In a few lines he can capture the colour and flavour of medieval life. In the tenth century, he tells us, men wore their hair long; to cut someone's hair was "as criminal as cutting off a nose or ear". --Prospect

'It prises your eyes open to the past... but it has the urgency and colour of a novel. It even has cliffhangers... One notable thing about Foundation is that it doesn't only feature priests, noble folk and queens, but farmers, iron-mongers and revolting peasants demanding, via pitch folk, a better deal in life.' --The Big Issue

'This is an extraordinary book... On this journey Ackroyd opens our eyes to the history that has always been around us, from tribal groupings and regional differences to the long-term effects of Roman rule and the impact of the saxon invasions. The churches in country towns, monastic buildings and our common law all bear witness to our colourful past... Ackroyd's brilliance is to bring all this alive in effortless prose. In this volume we learn of influential personalities and the shape and size of the land they inhabit... Ackroyd brings delightful but revealing details of the lives of the people from the past into the present. He reminds us that history is not simply an account of the lives of the kings and queens of England but a story of the wars, customs, homes, clothes and heritage that we all share...History, Ackroyd argues, is a tapestry and, on the evidence of this book, it's impossible to deny him. Even if you think you know a lot about English history, you will learn a great deal from Foundation.' Five Stars --Sunday Express

'Ackroyd is particularly intriguing on language, writing that the Germanic word walh (Celtic Speaker) continues to reverberate in the words Wales and Cornwall, and that the town of Hastings might take its name from the "followers of Haesta" who settled there in the 5th century.' --Sunday Times

'Foundation is not only written with great clarity and wit, it also presents a subtly persuasive account of English and identity. He leaves England poised at one of its great turning points, as it welcomes the succession of the head strong humanist Henry VIII and celebrates the departure of his suspicious, prudent father.' --The Times Saturday Review

'Given the epic scope, Ackroyd's prose is a surprisingly easy read. Unlike many grand histories, there is no obvious thesis or reinterpretation here, just a highly readable narrative of stuff that happened. No new angles but plenty of Old Angles. If you're looking for a meticulously cross-referenced work of historical scholarship, there are better options out there. If, however, you want an account that conjures the distant past with the fizz of a very well-informed storyteller, Foundation is about as good as it gets.' --Londonist

'Full of good writing and anecdote...will sell by the truck load as Christmas approaches.'
--New Statesman

'As anyone with a well-thumbed copy of London: The Biography...will know, Peter Ackroyd is a great example of that rare and unusual species: a readable historian...as he's turned his considerable literary skill to sociology, history and biography, he's become a national treasure...the writer has returned with his most ambitious project to date - a six-volume biography of British history. Setting the scene for this monster project is Foundation, a scholarly amble from pre-historic swamp to the feudalist Middle Ages, with plenty of colour in between...The prospect of circa 3,000 pages of history may seem like a heavy task but if this first part is representative of the whole, it'll be worth the investment. 8/10.'
--Sarah Warwick, Northern Scot Midweek

'It is a perennial complaint, not least by Education Secretaries, that the English do not know their own history. Nobody can accuse publishers of not doing their best to remedy this problem, if it really exists... Ackroyd confidently opens his "long story" 900,000 years ago... By the time we reach the more familiarly historical terrain of Romans, Britons, Angles and Saxons, Ackroyd has already staked out a view of his subject that seems unique to him... Ackroyd intersperses his narrative with shorter thematic chapters, which take up subjects from children's toys to climate, from the growth of towns to the diet of commoners and kings. here his unerring sense of the extraordinary or the emblematic is allowed full rein... Peter Ackroyd stays above the fray, trusting to the authority of his own voice and the power of his story.' --David Horspool, Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

The first volume in Peter Ackroyd's stunning new six-part history of England, taking us from Stonehenge to the death of Henry VII

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3936 KB
  • Print Length: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; Main Market Ed. edition (2 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005GDZHSQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,224 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reviews of this book seem split between the 'great overview' crowd and the 'not a serious history' bunch.

I'm definitely in the former camp and I really enjoyed this book. The author has a story he wants to tell and he gets on with it in an interesting and engaging way. I'm certain there are great arguments to be had on the nature of Englishness, the characterisation of King John, the importance of varying dramatis personae, and so on. But that isn't the goal of this book. Within a single volume it is impossible to cover all angles and viewpoints.

To misrepresent the title, this is a foundation book. Read it to get a broad and broadly acceptable understanding of the period covered. ...and then perhaps be inspired to go out and read more about the nuances and controversies of the time that interested you the most.
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Format: Hardcover
An accessible and highly enjoyable introduction to England's history: Ackroyd vividly sets the scene, cleverly shifting the focus between the detail and the bigger picture. The pace is fast-moving and engaging pulling the narrative along with fluidity and ease, then pausing at times to illustrate key facts, or to delight in the colour and tone of the everyday, evoking a sense of time and place and a taste of how our ancestors lived.

Perhaps his brushstrokes are too broad and sweeping at times for historical puritans, but all history is a narrative, and a retelling, and this is just one interpretation and contribution to that broader narrative and should be appreciated as such; a rich and textured examination of England's origins and identity, which leaves me keen to follow Ackroyd's journey in the remaining five volumes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read both the previous customer reviews, especially the one that really slates the book, I felt obliged to add my two pennorth! I wanted an overview of English history to be able to get a chronological perspective on the history I can barely remember from school - this provided that perfectly. It is well written and readable, I have enjoyed the structure of the book which intersperses chapters on the royal succession with chapters on various aspects of life and if it is as factually incorrect as one of the reviews suggests then I neither noticed nor care. I am not going to sit a history exam, I wanted a readable, rough idea (what else could it be in one book)of English history (not bothered about when England became England)and that is exactly what I got.........horses for courses I suppose.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's difficult for a modern author to take on the history of a nation. Nineteenth century authors could typically begin from the national myth and just add detail and texture. Modern historiography is less romantic and has jettisoned the retelling of the political narrative in favour of closer inspection of cultural and social history. Writing a book that runs from the Brythonic tribes to the death of Henry VII, as this volume does, would be next to impossible under the terms of modern academic historiography, which is a shame because so much that is recounted here has largely fallen out of modern consciousness and benefits from the slick presentation for which Mr Ackroyd is famous.

The History of England: Foundation, retells the development of England from a disparate island of tribal nations, through multiple conquest and immigration (Roman, Angle, Saxon, Norse, Norman) as a national identity is forged. The first millennium AD is handled at a brisk trot: unsurprisingly given the dearth of information on the Brythonic tribes, the Roman 'occupation', the Danelaw and the Anglo Saxon kingdoms. Ackroyd alternates a political narrative with short chapters on cultural and social themes, providing a flavour of the country in addition to the movements of grandees and the ambitions of monarchs. This is more than a sop to current historical vogue as it is also a key element in his overarching thesis - that despite the prevailing political conditions and the actions of 'good' or 'bad' monarchs, the history of England is a history of continuity. Prevailing macro economic, climatic and natural factors have greater agency than kings but despite all of these things, places of worship remain holy whether the devotion is to pre-historic spirits, pagan Gods or the Christian God.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this series. History was never like this at school. I guess all the naughty bits got left out.

In this book we travel from pre-history to the dawn of the Tudors in an un-put-downable book. I have already read it twice and will continue to refer to it for as many years as I am allowed.

If you thought there was only one Civil War, read this. Our history consists of one long catalogue of people rising up against kings and queens and rulers, and they certainly get a rough ride in this book. From the constant rebellions against the Romans to the contempt against the Normans, then the mainly absent Plantagenets, we see time and time again that the people are struggling against their despotic rulers. In the end, things become so bad that kings no longer just bend the rules of succession, not that those were ever set in stone, they start fighting and killing one another, culminating in the death of Richard II, who was no better or worse than the other rascals. This presages the rein of an even more loathsome ruling family, the Tudors. But that is Volume 2!

If things go badly, of course, take it out on Scotland. Great Victories of Scots against English, and vice versa, abound, and it's never a good victory unless the fields and streams are running with blood. (Rarely an English King's blood, I might add, few were foolish enough to lead their men into battle.) Meanwhile, the realm gradually shrinks back from France (as it is now) into our isles, mainly because it is too expensive to fight battles over there. France and Britain gradually go their own ways, to carry on squabbling in the future.

Read this instead of historical novels and TV dramas to see what really happened in our past.
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