Posted 20 hours ago

Foundation: The History of England Volume I

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It would be difficult to find a more informative and entertaining volume. You are drawn into the barbarity of much of English history and entertained by the more whimsical descriptions of life, particularly in the middle ages. Why do we need another book about the big gun Tudors? You might as well ask why we need another book about Shakespeare for the answer to both questions is the same.

It is probably not easy to write an account of English history that would satisfy both the layman and the expert and that would cover all the aspects and choose the vantage point every potential reader could wish for, and so all I can say is that if you want to read a history focusing on the monarchy and its representatives and adding vignettes of everyday history in between, this is the right book for you.Now William had no claim to the throne, not even such a weak connection as Henry VII(1457-1509). Henry’s claim to the throne was that his paternal grandfather secretly married the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. What he and Henry VII had in common was that they both took the crown at the point of their sword.

When the first sarsen stone was raised in the circle of Stonehenge, the land we call England was already very ancient. Close to the village of Happisburgh, in Norfolk, seventy-eight flint artifacts have recently been found; they were scattered approximately 900,000 years ago. So the long story begins." There is no doubt that he [Henry VIII] had conceived an overpowering passion for her [Anne Boleyn], and she in her turn was doing her best to retain his affection without alienating him."This book covers from Stonehenge to the end of the Plantagenet rule with the death of Richard III in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. I also had a relative that fought on the side of the Tudor usurpers (well how they are referred to in my household anyway) he was knighted on the battlefield by Henry VII for his role in helping to slay Richard. The main focus of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, ignoring the brief interlude of Lady Jane Grey, is centred on the reformation of the English church and the slow demise of the feudal society. These issues are brought to the fore in 'Tudors'. I found the section on Elizabeth I's reign more interesting. I knew about her early life, plus the defeat of the Armada, and the problem of Mary Queen of Scots, but this filled out the reign more fully and put things more into context.

We are led from the very early days of the native peoples right through a series of conquests and colonisation, wars, famous battles and rivalries, mythical figures and folklore, up until the end of Henry VII. Though he claims it's a history of England and the people, it more honestly a history of the Kings of England during this period, each chapter taking them one at a time. I have to say, that suits me fine but it seems to have annoyed some. We do start to get a sense of England as it develops, slowly, usually through inconsequential turns of events and chance occurrences but it's far from the main focus. Between the main chapters are shorter vignettes into various aspects of daily life, the food, agriculture, playthings etc. that make up life. They're good but over too soon.The 'great theme' of this book is the Reformation of the church in England. At the beginning of Henry VIII's reign (1509-1547) the Church in England was entirely Catholic, its forms of organisation and worship essentially medieval. The Pope in Rome held supreme authority, the Church lords and institutions held great lands and treasures, thousands of men and women lived religious lives as monks and nuns, and the monasteries and convents provided what we would now call social services like relief for the poor and medical care. But there’s no denying that we are becoming increasingly skeptical about these grandly inclusive tours d’horizon. They seem to leave a lot out: the experience of women and the working classes and other outsiders often enter only when the ruling elite decides to offer them education, the vote or previously withheld opportunities. Perhaps these massive narratives will disappear like Debenhams, or go into a long, old-fashioned decline like the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Or perhaps they will change into something new. David Kynaston’s wonderful sequence of books about postwar Britain, the latest volume of which is just out, is rooted not in Acts of Parliament but in individual voices, often quite unknown. Dominic Sandbrook’s highly enjoyable books of the same period are unusually responsive to the fast-changing texture of popular culture and are much more evocative than many narrative histories.

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