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4.8 out of 5 stars
48
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 1 April 2014
There is a bit of a story behind this - my boss was due to return back to the USA and we wanted to buy him something to remember the UK by. We agreed on the three volume boxset of Simon Schama's "A History Of Britain". This is VERY difficult to source in Hardback. Long story short, the first two sellers "fialed (non-delivery for the first, no dust-cover on the second) and Sam Books was my third attempt.

I'm please to say that the book was deliver d in pristine condition for a used volume (it did have an "Ex Libris" sticker, but that's not unexpected for used volumes) with excellent "standard Amazon" style packaging.

It took a little longer to arrive that expected - 10 days - the other volumes from two other sellers took 3 days - but the important thing is we know have the full set in hardback.
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on 5 August 2017
I bought the first volume and really enjoyed Simon Schama's style and humour. This volume is the same quality wise, but as a hardback copy it is a very heavy tome to support when reading. I would recommend it but on Kindle or paperback
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on 1 September 2016
Excellent book.
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on 9 March 2016
A great read. Enjoyable for sure
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on 20 March 2017
Easily digestible sweep across seventeenth century Britain. Helped me get my head around the Scottish covenanters which was what I was looking for.
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on 3 July 2014
All AOK
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on 9 December 2002
The second of Schama's beautiful volumes technically covers 1603-1776, but (naturally) spends most of the time discussing the era around the Civil War: it was here, after all, that Britons actually spent considerable energy deciding what sort of country they were: blank canvas after blank canvas was begun only to be torn up, until the monarchy cum Parliamentary democracy compromise was reached.
Schama writes on two levels: the first is just to tell you what happened and to cover off the classic stories along the way, hence longish excursus on e.g. the Great Fire of London, the building of St Pauls, Wolfe in Quebec etc. The second is to offer his own vision for the forces behind what was going on.
Since Schama's vision is invariably fresh and insightful, this is a constantly illuminating read: he can shed light on topics you think you know well, as well as just lucidly explaining the things you knew nothing about.
Occasionally, though, this makes it a strange work. His explanation for the bringing to trial of Warren Hastings, for example, is that the Governor of India was a vicarious scapegoat for Britain's failure in America: though fascinating, that has to be a very idiosyncratic view, and yet he doesn't flag this up. All this means, I suppose, is that you shouldn't read Schama to get the standard account of things, there may be other books that do that job better.
Rather, read Schama's history for his unceasingly fresh vision.
Moreover, he expounds his themes magnificently, for example, the way Britain gravitated away from the "right" (mercantile) to the "wrong" (governing) sort of empire, or in how responsible Charles I actually was for the onset of the Civil War.
Unafraid to back the out of favour Whig view of history (that it was all inevitable progression) with relatively few qualifications, Schama's confidence is invigorating.
One minor quibble is a fallout from his TV narration, where things, instead of being "probably true", are "not altogether unfounded" or instead of being "reasonable" are "not without reason". After a while, this grates.
But this is a trivial thing.
All in all, this is simply magnificent.
I started with Volume 2 and am now beavering through Volume 1 in an effort to get myself on track.
Much, much more than a book of the series.
A classic.
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on 4 March 2014
One thing to note (on the Kindle version) is that the pictures at the end are all blacked out, so you can't discern a thing, which was a little bit disappointing. But don't let that put you off, as I'm sure that it is just bad luck. The book itself was really good! To me this was much better than the first volume of A History of Britain. The book itself filled in those gaps in my own history, such as, who are the Stuarts? How did we pass from the Tudors to the Stuarts? Who is Charles I? How did the English Civil War(s) start? What did Oliver Cromwell do? Who is Charles II? What is the Restoration? Who is James II and VII? Who is William of Orange? What is the Glorious Revolution? How did we pass from the Stuarts to the Hanoverians? Who is James Francis Edward Stuart? Who is Charles Edward Stuart? Who were the Jacobites? What did these people do? What were their religious beliefs? How did they view monarchy? How did religion play a part in all this? How are all these events connected? How did these people affect British history? Etc. In short, this book answers all of them. I now know my stuff about seventeenth and eighteenth century Britain. I would highly recommend this book, and in fact the whole series, to anyone who would like a deeper understanding of British history.
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on 21 January 2003
This is by far the best of the three volumes of Schama's History of Britain. Volume 1 needs more space to tell all the stories Schama wants to discuss; Volume 3 loses a little coherence because of its thematic rather than purely narrative approach. Volume 2 is the jewel in the crown though - an account of the 160-odd years from the start of King Charles I's reign through to the start of the American Revolution - the years that saw England transform into Britain, and from a marginal state at the edge of Europe into one of the Great Powers.
The themes of the book are nationalism, power, trade, and the complex relationship between government, monarchy and the people - Schama is a master at juxtaposing the stories of all three, showing the chains of chance, cause and influence that shape history. He quotes original sources liberally, writes in a wonderfully fluid and unaffected style, and has chosen a sensible set of illustrations to accompany the text.
Since Schama covers 150 years in the sort of space he'd previously used to cover the previous 4500 years, there is plenty of room for background, for personality and character (both the author's and those of the protagonists) to be revealed, and for analysis of the what-if's and might-have-beens.
This is narrative history at its best - a book as powerful as Schama's "Citizens" which singlehandedly rekindled my interest in European history.
Absolutely superb - a master at the peak of his talent.
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on 24 August 2013
This book although well written, is in fact a comprehensive History of England. I found very little at all on Scotland and only one paragraph in this huge book about Wales. The title is totally misleading, Why did Scharma call it a 'A History BRITAIN' is a mystery.
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