How We Built Britain Hardcover – 4 Jun 2007
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A lively, literate and stimulating tour ... Dimbleby's disarming asides make him an engaging companion. -- Spectator
He is perfect for this gig - a broad history of our buildings and what they say about us.
-- New Statesman
He makes big subjects like art and architectural history come alive for those of us are interested, but not experts. -- Caravan Club Monthly
Published to accompany the superb BBC television series, this invigorating celebration of our architectural history is an absolute joy. -- This England
Thoroughly enjoyable and worthily Betjemanesque book. -- Sunday Express
About the Author
David Dimbleby joined the BBC as a news reporter in Bristol in the 1960s and is now a major presenter of current affairs programmes and documentaries, having presented Panorama, The Dimbleby Talk-In, Question Time and the BBC's general election programmes. He is the author of A Picture of Britain.
Top customer reviews
I found this cheap in a high street store. I haven't seen the series, and didn't really know whether I'd end up reading it all or simply skimming it and (being as though I'm a bloke) just looking at the photos. The book starts in Norman Britain and leads to the present day (I found this a little disappointing; even a historical pleb like me knows the Roman's and Saxon's lived in buildings, why weren't they included?) Oh well. There are six chapters, each covering a different era (Medieval Britain, The Tudors and The Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain). Each chapter covers around ten buildings and each building covers around 2-3 pages, so the book is perfect (for a braindead simpleton like me) for dipping in and out of. Throughout there are beautiful photographs that often highlight the stories being told. There are also several pages at the close of each chapter filled with interesting (period) paintings and illustrations of other important buildings of that age, along with brief descriptions.
The buildings covered are varied and well chosen (from obvious choices like Ely and Belnhiem, to less obvious, though equally interesting, entries such as Stourhead -- a Georgian lake in Wiltshire surrounded by mock Roman temples); and there are fascinating stories and history behind them all. Dimbleby, himself, is an illuminating writer, and has a laid back and amusing style that is perfect for this kind of book. Nothing is really serious, he seems more interested in coming up with a quirky story about the social history or building of the place than giving a stagnant chronicle of it. It's like listening to him on a autumn afternoon with a glass of Guinness. A warm and natural approach that brings the history alive.
I was surprised by how easy I found this book to read; I didn't find it at all stale or boring. I've already ordered his new book (and a set of Virginia samplers), and am looking forward to reading more of his thoughts.
This is a book for many different readers, and can therefore be enjoyed at a number of different levels.
It's an entertaining and personal account of David Dimbleby's travels to investigate some of the most important buildings and locations in the country, written in an educational but easy-to-read style.
It's an insight into the social background in which each of the book's subjects is placed, and covers the whole spectrum from magnificent fortresses and palaces to the everyday world of viaducts, barns, tower blocks and suburbia. (It's neatly divided into six subsections: Medieval Britain, Tudors and Stuarts, Scotland, The Georgians, The Victorians and Modern Britain)
It's a feast for the eyes with some wonderful specially commissioned photographs which perfectly complement the text.
On a purely practical and financial level: especially as books such as these tend to become heavily discounted as soon as the TV series has run, you can get hold of a copy (even on Amazon!!) for a fraction of its original price!
Go for it!
Speckled with anecdote, the book touches on many interesting details about everyday life that most regular history books pass over, because they are not relevant to the course of history.
Dimbleby avoids some of the most obvious buildings and locations, so you will not find Canterbury or York, but Ely Cathedral instead, not the Tower of London but Hedingham Castle, not the Houses of Parliament but Liverpool's St. George's Hall and Manchester's Town Hall.
Nor is the book exclusively concerned with regal buildings: the humble Scottish blackhouses and postwar prefab dwellings stand next to the grand Hardwick Hall and Blenheim Palace.
The book digs not very deep, how could it with 73 items crammed in 260 (well illustrated) pages and it is certainly not a dry technical exposé filled with jargon, but rather a readable, very informative and entertaining tome, both when read from cover to cover or just when browsed through.
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