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The Oxford History of Britain Paperback – 15 Apr 2010
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"The standard one-volume history of Britain."--Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Kenneth O. Morgan is honorary Fellow of the Queen's and Oriel Colleges, Oxford. From 1966 to 1989 he was Fellow and Praelector of Queen's; from 1989 to 1995 he was Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, and also Senior Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales, 1993-5. He is the author of many major works on British history including Wales in British Politics, 1868-1922; The Age of Lloyd George; Keir Hardie: Radical and Socialist; Rebirth of a Nation: Wales 1880-1980; Labour in Power, 1945-51; Consensus and Disunity: the Lloyd George Coalition Government, 1918-1922; Labour People: Leaders and Lieutenants, Hardie to Kinnock; The People's Peace: British History, 1945-1990; Modern Wales: Politics, Places and People; Callaghan: A Life; The Twentieth Century (AVery Short Intoduction); and Michael Foot: A Life. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1983, and became a life peer in 2000.
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Top Customer Reviews
Having a series of experts writing grippingly on their specialism is not a flaw in the slightest. (And Kenneth O. Morgan is a great historian, as is John Guy.) When Morgan talks of the social trends of the twentieth century he does not give all the details of the rise of the labour movement of course - only somebody who already knew about them would be able to take it all in, and it would be a much longer book. What he does is provide insight (very eloquently) to the area, allowing further reading, or even reference in a conversation, to make sense to the reader.
J.M. Roberts is a fine writer, he makes history very accessible, but does not, himself, go into huge details in books like 'The History of the World' (where he mentions Elizabeth I only once and in passing).
This book is not a chronology of British history, nor is it an encyclopedia - but it is a great guide to understanding the history of Britain.
Instead I found a fascinating set of essays written by specialists with self evidently deep knowledge of their respective periods. One interesting common thread to the essays is that history is presented as a set of interconnected parallel narratives; broadly these are political, social and economic, however each essay gives these areas a more specific theme for appropriate to the period. The effect of reading each essay is to leave with the sense of having been introduced to an encompassing overview of the period.
In such a book I would have welcomed footnotes to provide sources for the evidence cited, however there are copious suggestions for further reading.
(1) It doesn't have an author. Instead, it has a bunch of authors, each apparently assigned a certain portion of British history to cover. The problem is that none of the authors seem to have consulted each other, nor did the editor seem to edit. On every other page, you see a fact or definition repeated (by a previous author), or a topic referenced (but uncovered by a previous author). History is a messy thing, but it has to be organized to be learned, and any hope of presenting material in terms of themes or movements is lost, because styles and approaches switch radically from author to author, from clear and sparse, to confusing and overly-detailed.
(2) It should have an author. This sounds like point (1), but hear me out: the editor, Mr. Morgan, claims that writing grand history, spanning the length of the British past, just can't be written anymore. It is better, rather, to have specialists write about their specialities. Sounds good in theory, but is just abominable when placed next to comprehensive histories written by single authors. Toynbee and Trevleyan wrote such history earlier. And J. Roberts writes such history now, particularly his History of Europe, and History of the World, two models of lucid historical writing that make this disjointed compilation look like an ill-considered mishmash.
(3) It should have an audience.Read more ›
The next two chapters cover the Middle Ages with John Gillingham thought the Thirteenth Century and Ralph Griffiths up to the Fifteenth Century. This is the part of English History I know the most about. I actually have other books by Gillingham. I think this section is done well enough, but it reflects how the space limitation causes important aspects to be glossed over.
The next two chapters cover the Tudor and Stuart eras. This time period was significant for religious turmoil. The beginning of the Anglican Church and the waves of protestant reform. The rule of the English queens also gets its start here. The Stuart era sees continuing religious intolerance and resulting civil war. John Guy comes down heavily on Elizabeth, but I found him unconvincing. His claim that she left England ungovernable and his supporting evidence seem to fall apart in the next chapter. Again with more time to explore the topic, the author may have been more compelling. But, the inconsistency in these two chapters is also a reflection of the format of the book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this book. A real masterpiece. Everybody who really wants to learn about Great Britain's history should have one.Published 13 months ago by Madame Frou Frou