- Hardcover: 305 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (11 Dec. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316114596
- ISBN-13: 978-0316114592
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 466,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Great Tales from English History (3): Captain Cook, Samuel Johnson, Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin, Edward the Abdicator, and More Hardcover – 11 Dec 2006
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""An astonishing amount of information.... It's hard to imagine a better-executed, easier-to-digest primer on the social, political and religious life of the age."
""An entertaining, wryly lucid reconstruction of the facts...The tales weave a narrative as finely as an English cottage."
About the Author
Robert Lacey is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty books, including The Queen; Ford: The Men and the Machine; The Year 1000; and Inside the Kingdom. He lives in London.
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Technical, economic, governmental and political advancement dominated this period. The monarchs of the period are succinctly covered including the German George I, the madness of George III, and the coming to the throne of the teenage Queen Victoria. Tomas Paine's idea "that the rights of man, which include equality and liberty, are God-given at birth, and that governments are only good when they protect them" became a part of American doctrine. Curiously, profits of the triangular slave trade helped fuel the spectacular economy of England in the eighteenth century...." England ended slave trade in 1807.
The engineering marvels of the Great Western Railway are noted. In 1842 Queen Victoria chose that railway for her first train trip. This was also a period of great labor unrest and abuse. Labor alliances were formed. The 1888 strike of the "match girls" pioneered techniques of protest still used today, helped the formation of trade unions all over the country and "provided an early grass roots triumph in the struggle for women's rights.
Coverage of the twentieth century is excellent.The World War I trench-warfare truce of 24 December 1914 occurred when both German and Allied troops stopped fighting and celebrated Christmas together. Lacey notes that "such a widespread flowering of peace and friendship had never been seen in the history of war...." In 1915.when a few Allied soldiers trapped behind lines in Belgium were helped to escape by Edith Cavell, matron in a Belgium nurses' training school, the Germans executed her. The worldwide outcry was enormous and the bitterness so great that there were no more Christmas truces. In 1914 the British used volunteers. Young friends marched to recruiting offices, to enlist in what became known as the "pals or chums" battalions. At the Somme nearly twenty thousand British soldiers were killed with another forty thousand wounded: "the greatest ever British loss in a single day of battle.
Most interesting is the account of Edward, Prince of Wales' abdication. Apparently, Edward had been thinking of giving up the throne long before his father's death. Later Edward was involved with Mrs. Simpson, an American divorcee, which was his excuse for abdicating. Brief but sympathetic comments are given Neville Chamberlain's well-meaning attempts to appease Hitler. Robert Lacey asks the rhetorical question regarding Chamberlain "And was he really so wrong to try to stop a conflict which....would claim the lives of more than fifty million people?"
The text coverage of World War II is revealing. The story of the little boats at Dunkirk is exaggerated; "it was the big ships of the Royal Navy that transported the vast majority of the soldiers home.." While Churchill lauded the RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain stating "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few", the text notes "...every fighter pilot depended on a massive and complex pyramid of support staff--radar technicians, the observer crops...." The few were supported by "many." The text's final comment on WWII notes that Winston Churchill, taking up to eight hours,wrote all his own speeches. Churchill phrases are still quoted to this day.
Finally, the text closes with a review of the 1953 discovery of DNA 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson for which they later received a Nobel Prize
This is an easy and very enjoyable book to read. The reader need not worry about the author's objectivity.
Robert Lacey's quirky 3 volume collection Great Tales from English History was truly a joy to listen to. Volume III ran from the late 17th century to the 1990s and covered such topics as John Locke, The Boston Tea Party (a remarkably even-handed presentation of the American Revolution in general), King George III, the beginnings of the Methodist movement, the Industrial Revolution, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Darwin, Queen Victoria and World Wars I and II.
If you are listening to this audiobook to get a complete history of England, you will be sorely disappointed. This series cherry picks the interesting and fun stories (the type I love to tell in the classroom) and strings them together for a most entertaining listen.
Lacey reads the book himself and does a very good job. Sometimes it can be a problem when the author reads his or her own work in an audiobook format but as a reader Lacey was everything a listener could ask for.