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I have just finished listening to the fourth volume of this splendid series. The presentation is rather out of date now - these books were completed in the 1950s - and would probably not pass muster academically as objective and impartial history - for example, the focus on 'english speaking peoples' is a bit awkward particularly in the fourth volume which includes rather dull - for this series - sections on New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the US. He also makes no secret of his attachment to the old british empire - David Schama's history of the comparable period makes for an interesting contrast ( though I have not yet listened to the audio version).
But you cant take away the wonderful prose, which draws you into the books like an adventure, and the story is told with great style and verve. I believe also that Churchil dictated his books to his secretaries and this results, I think, in them being particularly well suited to being read out lound - and Christian Rodscka reads them with great flair and clarity. Listeners to the BBC's 'this sceptred isle' will be familiar with these books and if you enjoyed the former you should certainly get great pleasure from the latter. I shall certainly listen to them again in the future.
I grew up in Qatar, which is a small middle-eastern country. I have an odd worldveiw, largely because of that, but I'm basically a hard-work
I follow a few historical podcasts, and they both mention this series. I can see why. Sir Winston was a man of a great many talents, and though some of his history writing is coloured by his experiences, and in some cases his lack of detailed knowledge, he does a fantastic job in creating a coherent overview of the history of the english speaking peoples. I feel that all history students from year 7 should have to read through this - added to the Horrible histories that kids are watching now, we might have a generation who actually know something of their history. Well worth listening to, I'm on the second and planning on buying 3 and 4 - especially as Churchill was involved with the later history directly!
This a sweeping account of England’s birth as a country buffeted by a sequence of invasions, assimilations and dynastic rivalries ending with the defeat of Richard III and the take-over by Henry VII. The book is well-suited to to be listened to as the writing-style is lively. It’s a bleak story at times as Europe endured many bloody battles, intrigues and ruthless leaders who executed rivals without any recourse to justice and invaded other lands in the pursuit of power. It is salutary to be reminded of how recently we lived in such brutal times.
To modern ears Churchill’s slant on history is somewhat old-fashioned as it presents conquest by English kings in a favourable light, the spread and domination by Christianity as unquestionably a good thing. However, Churchill was of a generation who venerated the British empire and mourned its loss. I had to grit my teeth when ‘Hammer of the Scots’ Edward First’s crushing defeat of the Scots is presented as a good thing!
I enjoyed the book and thought it gave a condensed and assessable overview of early English history and was particularly good in its descriptions of the ebb and flow of the War of the Roses.
Christian Rodska is a first class narrator
"Birth of Britain"
Winston Churchill's seminal work crackles right along through centuries of British depravity and triumphs, just enough detail and on you go (although one might wish to hear a bit more of the condition of the non-noble common man). Churchill spices his research with a generous serving of opinion in a way that only one who has "been there" can do. While it was launched decades ago it remains a very contemporary history.
"Fantastic Historical Detail and Accuracy"
Winston Churchill takes a period of history for which most are simply unaware and breaks it down into manageable sections, and while packed with details, his presentation is more like reading a story rather listening to a history lesson. Christian Rodska is simply wonderful to listen to and makes this great volume of information a very easy listen. The only downside I can think of is that listening to 16 hours of audio twice is a lot to handle, but believe me, you will want to, it really is that good.
"A Complicated Glimpse into Churchill's Mind"
Churchill's writing is good and the history is engaging. If you are a fan of the Lion of England, this history provides some insight into how he thought. But, you will probably need a pen & paper to keep up with all the names and places. I am somewhat familiar with both and I still found myself rewinding repeatedly.
I passed exams in History at school, how I don't know. I found it boring to the max.
A couple of years ago, I started to read the fabulously bitchy history of England by Baron Macaulay for Librivox audio. It was an absolute hoot, which made me realise that history can be interesting and fun.
The more I read, the more I realise how good *this* work of Winston Churchills really is. David Hume's is probably the more complete, but this definitely puts meat on dry bones. The late Winston was an opinionated old scoot, and without doubt, definitely a snob. He unquestionably considered the aristocracy, of which he was a member, rather better than yer average citizen.
Strangely enough, while that does come through, it doesn't annoy.
I particularly enjoyed his take on the middle ages, where it had the definite ring of veracity.
Every history of Britain suffers from lack of detail from Caesars time through about AD800 or so. The documents are patchy, and mostly compiled from monks drawing the history of their church, rather than the times. Churchill runs through this time lightly, offering his opinion as best as can be gained from the documents available, and better than most, Hume included.
Very well read, very well written and consistently interesting. A surprise and a constant delight.
"Lots of info but thoroughly enjoyable"
I agree with another reviewer that the many names, places, events and battles are hard to keep track of and I had to rewind often to keep up. Eventually I decided to just go with the flow and only rewound when really necessary. Once I gave up having to have all the details, I realized I was still retaining the general sense and direction of the events and still very much enjoying it. I like hearing Churchill???s take on things ??? especially when he remarks on how these historical events are similar to events in his time, which is powerful in light of what he lived through. I also really liked the narrator who sounded very Churchillian to me. Always clear, never hard to understand and had a pleasant pace and flow to his reading. I???m getting the second volume now and look forward to hearing about Elizabeth I.
"Britain becomes a nation"
Churchill wrote an interesting history and made several hundred years of English kings and wars and castle intrigue cogent and arresting. I look forward to the subsequent volumes.
"Traditional Historical Writing at its Best"
This is not a modern academic work of history, it's something more. From time to time it lacks the precision that we have come to expect of books on history written by academic historians, the careful balancing different points of view, and objective commentary. This work is Sir Winston at his best, with all his quirks and ideals. He offers unabashed praise of the English Speaking Peoples, their laws, their customs, their history, and their values and; in this world of politically correct 'objective' academic works, it seems a breath of fresh air. It was written by a son of the English aristocracy who makes no apologies for his views, his ancestors, or his past. And, yet, don't think that it's a politically incorrect or biased work, it's not, he's simply indifferent to these concerns. This indifference grants him the ability to comment freely on the events of history and this commentary is where the book really shines. Churchill makes connections between events throughout history that help tie together a thousand years of our past and help to explain events that might otherwise seem unrelated or inexplicable. Some of these connections are the type that modern historians would require an entire book to justify, Churchill simply asserts them, you are free to form your own opinion about their value or veracity. More than relaying history, Churchill explains history and this fact will likely ensure that this work is read for centuries to come.
"English History From a Master"
There is a reason Winston Churchill could always be sure that his finances could be refilled by his writing. This is English history in great detail that feels like a wonderful story.
Churchill had a great feel for this history of his country and people, and this (the first of his 4 volume History of the English Speaking Peoples) gets the story rolling quickly. The story does go back into pre-Roman Britain, but it really gets rolling with his detailed look at all the kings and battles that put England together out of a rolling cast of Vikings, Saxons, Scots, Picts, and all the various brigands that tried to control this island.
The detail of the history is good, but what really brings this to a higher level of history is Churchill's insight into what the actions of different people or groups meant to the overall history of England and its culture.
Its interesting to note that this book was actually researched and started before WW I, but he went back to it after this cataclysm and brought out a classic of history.
I can't wait for the other 3 volumes to appear.
I don't know a better writer than Winston Churchill. It is like sitting in the room with a great story teller. My only regret about this book is that it covers too much ground too quickly. Having read a substantial amount about English history I still have difficulty keeping the Kings and Queens straight. Keeping this in mind this is a book that I shall read (listen to) several times.I cannot recommend the read more highly.
"A glorious history of treachery and cruelty."
If only the Romans had remained in
England. Instead the inhabitants spent the next 1000 years breaking oaths, beheading each other, and generally acting badly.
Churchill does a fine job making the litany compressible.
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