A History of Britain: v.2: British Wars 1603 - 1776 Vol 2 (BBC Radio Collection) Audio CD – Audiobook, Box set
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The Fate of Empire brings Simon Schama's stylish and absorbing History of Britain to a stirring close. Of the volumes in the trilogy, The Fate of Empire is the most subjective, as Schama offers his own account of how the British shaped much of the modern world, and in turn were reshaped as a nation and a people by the experience of revolution, empire and war.
Unlike the previous volumes, Schama only pays lip-service to the familiar narrative of British history. The great, the good and the unsung are all there--the Lake poets, Queen Victoria, Benjamin Disraeli, Mary Seacole, Winston Churchill and George Orwell--but Schama uses them as voices through which a different history of Britain can be heard. Ireland, India, the urban poor, suffragettes and striking miners are all restored to the national story. The emphasis on empire (along with India and Ireland the largest subject-entry in the index) is particularly welcome, although the finest hour of empire--the First World War--is dealt with all too briefly.
Along the way Schama reveals himself once more as one of the world's finest cultural historians, with brilliant vignettes on Rousseau in England, the 1851 exhibition, Orwell's complex patriotism and much else, together with original insights on photography, the effect of empire on English vocabulary, and the post-war "colouring" of Britain. For beginners this is an excellent 21st century perspective on modern British history. For connoisseurs it is a refreshing reminder of how little British history the English really know. --Miles Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Schama has a masterly ability to conjure up character and vivify conflict." (Ben Rogers Financial Times)
"He remains a master storyteller, admirably and sceptically well read in current revisionist histories, and a wonderful guide to a new history of Britain." (The Times)
"A History of Britain, its text supplemented by wonderful illustrations, affords the rare joy of witnessing a scholar at the peak of his powers convincing the reader that he has a cracking good tale to tell and that he is loving every minute of the telling." (Roy Porter Literary Review)
"Popular history at its finest." (Sunday Express)
"Simon Schama's A History of Britain is far more than the book of the TV series... The book is far richer and fuller, covering a huge span so economically that there is room for plenty of arresting detail... It is the sort of vivid history that keeps you awake." (Peter Lewis Daily Mail) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
But for Simon Schama I'll make an exception. This is not just a paperback text with glossy pictures stuck on and a tenner added to the price. It is - please forgive the terrible nineties expression - an 'experience'.
This particular period of history is not, perhaps, as interesting as the centuries covered in the earlier volumes. After the excitement of the Napoleonic wars and their aftermath the narrative becomes less incident-packed and more focussed on social history. That I find this less interesting than the battles and religious strife that went before says more about me than it does about Schama. His prose pleasantly complements the photos and illustrations. He might not thank me for saying it, but he gives history a pleasing sense of narrative such as we non-academic dabblers need to keep us entertained.
So, a good purchase, especially if you're buying someone a present, or you're after a handsome volume to sit on your living room bookshelf. If you actually want to learn about the period this is a good introduction. However Schama is generally uncontroversial and readers already familiar with the material won't find much that's new.
Just be prepared to sit at a table to read it. Or maybe you want to beef up those biceps?
I really enjoyed Volume 1 and felt that the author dealt with Medieval History in a clear, concise and witty manner. Volume 2 is the least interesting as Schama spent too much time dealing with constitutional issues. However, Volume 3 is too eccentric to be considered authoritive and is content to reduce the last 50 years to a few pages.
As a whole, the series is ambitious but Schama is too controversial in the emphasis he gives his different subjects. Norman Davies' book is also an interesting read, but ,equally not authorative, although more detailed. Readers interested in Pre-history will be disappointed by both books.
Unlike the generally straightforward chronological approach of the first two volumes, though, Schama has taken a rather more thematic approach to history in Volume 3 - the clear sense of ongoing narrative has been subsumed into rather more background and rather more focus on individual details. This makes Vol 3 feel rather different to its predecessors and I for one preferred the more narrative approach Schama initially adopted.
Schama's writing is as crisp and powerful as ever - just the right blend of colloquialism, precision and description. This History of Britain has been far more than a "book of the TV series"; it is a compelling literary work that stands proudly alone too.
The only book on British history to come close to Schama's efforts in terms of readability and scope is Norman Davies' "The Isles: A History".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book for my dad who loves anything about history and he said it was a fantastic book. I believe this was the third in a series and he has all the other books which go... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Vampirewerewolfzombielover
What can I say about this series of books - well-researched and well-written. The perfect companion to the classic BBC series, or a standalone history of the British islands and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Uncle Fester
An excellent book, history illuminated by Professor Schama's glorious dry wit. A must-have companion to the BBC DVD set.Published 9 months ago by Peter H. Mussell