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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 20 March 2015
This book cannot be too highly recommended.
As a pleasurable experience, it lacks the 'reads like a novel' quality of books by Marc Morris, Tom Holland, Alison Weir or Ian Mortimer
but, then again, it's not written by one of the popularisers of history, it's the mass of accumulated knowledge catalogued and written down by a giant of the academic study of the High Medieval period, Professor David Carpenter (Peace Be Upon Him). So to even expect such a volume by such an author to be as 'easy' as an Alison Weir title would be to enter into it with false expectations.
Having said that, there is no book on the High Medieval that will not be enhanced by the information within this wonderful book.
If you have the mental stamina and aptitude to read it from start to finish, fantastic. If not, simply cherry pick the chapters that interest you the most or even just use it as a reference book, to help add an extra layer of understanding to the Morris or Mortimer book you're enjoying.

I became aware of this book by just only many bibliographies in turned up in.
When a particularly interesting statement caught my attention, and I checked out the source notes, often I was referred to this one book.
It was almost as if all, or most, source notes led to The Struggle for Mastery.

Another excellent reason for reading this is the absence of works concerning Henry III (since Maurice Powicke's day, anyway).
With the exception of a few titles concerning Simon DeMontfort, Eleanor DeMontfort and Eleanor of Provence (Henry III's Brother-in-Law, Sister and Wife) and the excess of ones about King John and King Edward (his father and son) there is precious little about the actual King who ruled for 56 years - the longest reign of any medieval monarch of England. This book is one of the few that goes into Henry III's reign in more detail than just as it applied to the above mentioned characters, 56 years needed more than the beginning (King John or William Marshall),the latter years (King Edward I) and a side view of the reign during the Baron's Revolt (DeMontford).

There are a great many more reasons why this book is an absolute necessity for the shelves of any student, or fan, of the High Medieval
It's also the one David Carpenter book that doesn't have an expensive price tag. I found mine for a derisory £2.50 (and that was the hardback).
For the price of a Happy Meal, or less, this book will be a lifelong companion for every Norman or early Plantagenet era book you ever read.
It is an absolute must.
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on 12 July 2010
The theory underpinning Carpenter's survey of British history from the Conquest to the birth of Edward II is that accusations of English 'imperialism' (by R. Davies, etc.) over the rest of Britain are simplistic and fail to factor for the struggles within Wales, Scotland and Ireland between respective dynasties for "dominion" over one another. In other words, all of Britain was "struggling for mastery", not just England.

Carpenter's book is balanced and thorough, at times introductory, others very detailed. It is highly illuminating and accessible to the non-specialist. Highly recommended.
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on 23 October 2010
David Carpenter is the only historian I know who can hold a candle to Prof Crouch in this period. The detail in this book is incredible and you have to concentrate all the way through, but the effort is more than worth while. Anyone who is interested in this period will find this an incredibly valauble book. Far too often english history is just that - English; the movement around the British Isles and the near continent throughout the period is vastly rewarding, I confess with shame I had no idea about early Scottish history, for example, before reading this. Highly recommended.
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on 30 January 2005
It takes some time to digest this book because it offers such a wealth of information on more than 500 densely printed pages (not counting the bibliography and the index). It starts with the Norman invaders crossing the Channel (providing us also with a glimpse of the situation in Britain prior to the Conquest), tells of a realm straddling the Channel and kings (e.g. Henry II) at times more focused on the continent than on England. Scottland and Wales are treated as separate entities (which they were until Edward I changed the situation) and covered in detail. Irish history (as far as it is intertwinded with British history) is not neglected. We learn about the changes in rulership, the gradual development of parliament, the impact of royal decisions and actions upon all stratas of society and the interactions between kings and not only their barons but also the knights and the burghers who gradually gained in importance.
The history of a country is always the history of its rulers, too, but in this book it's not so much their person/personality which is the focus of attention, we see them as part of a whole which they only managed to shape to a certain degree and which sometimes developed a life of its own which the ruler no longer managed to control effectively (e.g. John, Henry III).
The book is good to read, very fluently written, but requires one's full attention because it is so cram-full with facts. A glossary would have been helpful.
Invaluable for anyone interested in that period in history.
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on 5 October 2003
Written in a lively style, with Carpenter's enthusiam for the period apparent throughout, `Struggle for Mastery` makes for a fascinating introduction to a period many of us know little about. Certainly I didn't! It debunks many myths about British medieval history while at the same time entertaining and informing the reader. You would struggle to invent characters and situations as intriguing and wonderful as the period prooduced, and yet many will be unheard of to the general public. This is a cracking read....
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on 6 July 2014
I love reading history but this book was a little above me. Its very professional and not for the average reader. Its very in depth, and political and like trying to absorb heavy parliamentary records . Would be suitable for advanced history students and very serious
readers or people who cant get to sleep easy. No doubt it is a brilliant book but rather selective I would imagine in its readership.To some people it would be 5 stars but to me personally 3 stars
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on 4 October 2003
This book is a wonderful introduction to a period of history I was previously not familiar with. It's lively style debunks many of the myths surrounding medieval Britain and genuinely entertains the reader. I found it brought home to me, the enduring legacy of the period, one which although it has its beginnings nearly a thousand years ago, still lives on in modern day Britain. The author's infectious enthusiasm for the period has whetted my appetite to discover more about medieval History. A cracking read....
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on 6 May 2011
The book is a testament to the knowledge and insights of its author. However, so great is the amount of information he seeks to present, that questions inevitably arise about the realism of his objectives and his choice of lay-out. He attempts to do justice to Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and much of Western France, by treating those entities as more than arenas for English involvement, but inevitably has to be selective, and the basis for selection is usually significance in the English context. He preserves a fairly rigid chronological ordering, but unfortunately this can be confusing, especially when he is contrasting different 'Henry or William's. Either some basic timelines for easy reference, or a more thematic ordering would surely have aided the non-expert to absorb more of his very worthwhile analyses.
I reached the final chapter, impressed by his even-handedness, only to be amazed by his attitude to the actions of Edward I. The ability of that man has never been in question, but the idea that his demolition of the Welsh polity, and the attempt to do the same in Scotland, which came so close to success, can be seen as the entirely reasonable actions of a man `more sinned against than sinning' is certainly a new take for me. I was also surprised to see the `state building' of Welsh and Scottish rulers in the preceding century, contrasted with pacific England which had of course had the resources to achieve `natural frontiers' two or three hundred years earlier.
In spite of these reservations I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wished to know more of the British Isles in the first part of the last millennium.
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on 13 April 2015
Carpenter is ace, basically the go to book for Uni students doing any 13th/14th century European history.
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on 22 August 2014
A splendid read.
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