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Parliament: The Biography, Vol. 1 - Ancestral Voices Hardcover – 27 Mar 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 27 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (27 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857520687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857520685
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 261,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"This magnificent book... Bryant is a fine historian. His understanding of political processes shines through. After this epic the next volume will be eagerly awaited" (Leo McKinstry Express)

"A bravura ‘biography’ of Parliament… both charming and important… A carefully constructed and lucidly written adventure story about the institution that – like it or not – still shapes our lives" (Roy Hattersley Telegraph)

"Admirably comprehensive… and written in the kind of lucid, elegant prose now rarely associated with our elected representatives" (New Statesman)

"a fascinating study into the lives and reputations of those who, honourable or not, have sat as parliamentarians... compelling reading" (Chris Skidmore Times Literary Supplement)

"This book tells the story of our greatest national institution. It it well-written, contains much truth, and a great deal of important information. It is a wonderful idea." (Peter Oborne)

"Lively... a warts-and-all account of how MPs have first survived and subsequently shaped and initiated policy" (The Lady)

"This is a wonderful, wry view of the history of parliament "from the inside". Chris Bryant is a great myth-buster. If you ever thought that modern MPs were more corrupt or worse behaved than their predecessors, then read on. You'll find it's not quite so simple." (Mary Beard)

"A remarkably readable and scholarly account of the emergence of the British Parliament over its first five hundred years or so" (Ken Clarke)

"A wonderfully iconoclastic yet affectionate history ... Bryant tells the story with clarity and verve." (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University)

"Worthy of its venerable subject" (Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

The fascinating and authoritative history of the institution at the cultural heart of Britain

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Broadbent TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the two volumes story of British Parliamentary history from uncertain beginnings almost 800 years ago to the present day.
It is well written and incredibly well researched with fine and interesting details.
Occasionally it becomes heavy sailing and sometimes i had to refer back a few pages because it was a little confusing.
However these are personal and minor niggles, if like me you want to understand our parliamentary history then stay with it.
There is so much to learn, not just in terms of laws and bureaucracy, but the colourful characters that litter our history, expressions and words that have entered the English language, all from the British Parliament.
Volume 1 takes you from the early days of the first meetings that were the forerunner of a structured system to 1800.
Volume 2 completes the history.
There is a lot of myth and misconceptions about our parliament and this book puts those to bed.
Remember this great institution affects every aspect of our lives, and will affect the lives of your children and grand children.
I do not know of any other books that are so specialised and comprehensive.
A permanent reference tome of immense usefulness that is also great value. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
The best thing about Bryant's approach to this important subject is that he doesn't subscribe to any grand theories about the development of Parliament over the ages. MPs came to London, outlawed crows, foreign hats, or whatever else bothered their constituents, and went home. They assembled infrequently, rarely aware of having parts in a great play whose final act would see the creation of a democracy, which of course is a 'Whig construct' of the 19th century which is still conveniently wheeled out when it suits today for political reasons. The book is a salutary reminder that Parliament didn't accumulate power in a linear fashion; It waxed and waned - and in some ways was not much more powerful under George III than it had been under Edward III.

The problem with this approach is that, in much of the first half at least, the work is a rather dense account that lacks much of a narrative arch. In this “biography”, Parliament emerges as little more than a series of meetings of burgesses, lords, bishops and abbots, all squabbling madly with the King and each other about posts and about the money supply. Another problem is that the stories of the Scottish and Irish parliaments are compressed into a few pages. However, the story gains pace and direction in the second half, when Bryant lets go of the fine detail and delivers some witty, sympathetic sketches of the great figures of the 18th century.

All in all, a decent effort - I look forward to the 2nd volume which continues the story after 1800.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to reading this book as I know next to nothing on the history of Parliament. However this kind of history book gives history learning a bad name and inhibits younger people learning about it. The book makes the character lists of War & Peace and the Genealogical Lists of the Old Testament look small and insignificant. Nearly every page is just crammed with names, titles and dates that reading the book is drier than the bottom of a bird cage. Also I advise if you do read it, buy it on Kindle as you will have to look up many archaic, unusual words & latin and french expressions - several per page. The prime target group for this book seems to be Professors of History or other MPs as a show off piece for the author. I would not advise anyone who doesn't have a fair knowledge of British History and a whole lot of patience to read this book - it couldn't be more drier and difficult read if the author had had these two factors as criteria to write the book. No chapter summaries - few links to the present Parliament - and forgets to mention how & when the title of Prime Minister came about? To the author - with all your knowledge of Parliament surely it would be bountiful of you to write a lay persons guide/history of Parliament so that most people can grasp how it originated, developed and formed into the Parliament we have today (preferably with some humour). I would like to point out on the plus side that this is one of only a few books written on the subject and so the author should be commended for daring to tackle what is obviously a difficult subject to write about.
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Format: Hardcover
I saw good reviews for this and it started well, the early years of parliament seem well written and reasonably balanced but by the 17th century the authors list of rouges grows to anyone who disagrees with 'progress' as he defines it.

Two bits particularly annoyed me. I'm not a fan of Edmund Burke but to describe "Reflections...." as "asserting the priority of established rights such as that to private property over what he considered the entirely speculative rights to food or medicine espoused by the revolution" deliberately missing the point of "'What is the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In this deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor" that Burke was making about abstract theories lead to disaster. I suspect the author may admire more Abbe Sieyes a fellow priest turned politician and master of impractical constitution who apparently considered his greatest achievement was to survive the havoc he played a large part in creating. He even manages to make me sympathetic to Lord Cardigan who wasn't tried for killing a man in duel but for attempted murder and its hardly one law for the rich when the Earl is tried and acquitted when his equally guilty (still living) opponent isn't even indicted
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