In The English and Their History, the first full-length account to appear in one volume for many decades, Robert Tombs gives us the history of the English people and of how the stories they have told about themselves have shaped them, from the prehistoric 'dreamtime' through to the present day.
If a nation is a group of people with a sense of kinship, a political identity and representative institutions, then the English have a claim to be the oldest nation in the world. They first came into existence as an idea, before they had a common ruler and before the country they lived in even had a name. They have lasted as a recognisable entity ever since, and their defining national institutions can be traced back to the earliest years of their history. The English have come a long way from those precarious days of invasion and conquest, with many spectacular changes of fortune.
Their political, economic and cultural contacts have left traces for good and ill across the world. This book describes their history and its meanings from their beginnings in the monasteries of Northumbria and the wetlands of Wessex to the cosmopolitan energy of today's England.
Robert Tombs draws out important threads running through the story, including participatory government, language, law, religion, the land and the sea, and the ever-changing relations with other peoples. Not the least of these connections are the ways the English have understood their own history, have argued about it, forgotten it, and yet been shaped by it. These diverse and sometimes conflicting understandings are an inherent part of their identity.
Rather to their surprise, as ties within the United Kingdom loosen, the English are suddenly beginning a new period in their long history. Especially at times of change, history can help us to think about the sort of people we are and wish to be.
This audiobook, the first single-volume work on this scale for more than half a century, and which incorporates a wealth of recent scholarship, presents a challenging modern account of this immense and continuing story, bringing out the strength and resilience of English government, the deep patterns of division, yet also the persistent capacity to come together in the face of danger.
©2015 Robert Tombs (P)2016 Audible, Ltd
"A work of supreme intelligence.... No history published this year has been of such resounding importance to contemporary debates. Tombs, who is both fearless and non-partisan, deserves to be rewarded with a life peerage for this book." (Richard Davenport-Hines, Observer)
"Learned, pithy and punchy, with a laudable sense of narrative sweep and a bracing willingness to offer bold judgments, [Tombs's] survey is a tremendous achievement, and deserves to become the standard history for years to come." (Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times)
"Packed with telling detail and told with gentle, sardonic wit...[a] vast and delightful book." (Ben Macintyre, The Times)
A great read that looks at English history from a different view point highly recommended
The readers smooth tones help me through some of the more arcane subjects
It's incredible that a subject so vast can be so comprehensively explored in one volume. Tombs manages it and does so with balance and insight. This is an exceptional work.
Far more than a chronological collection of facts and anecdotes, Tombs provides analysis which constantly appears somehow refreshing, vital, and incontrovertible. Perhaps this is why the book is recommended by people from across the political spectrum.
Robert Tombs excellent, comprehensive and insightful book about this great but often confused nation is brought to life by Stephen Thorne's drool delivery. First class.
Although initially slightly intimidated by the length sheer scale of this audiobook, the lure of its scope paired with such good reviews were too much to resist.
Having read a few other works on general English history, mostly due to a frustration at lack of coverage during my schooling throughout the 2000's, this book provided a perfectly pitched walkthrough of the series of events that lead to England's present state. For me personally, no topic was lingered on for too long, and coverage was good. Although focused on England, there is also enough discussion of events that occurred in other nations which add context to the reasons why these impacted those in England.
The final proportion covering the past 40 years (especially the last 20) were extremely refreshing, mostly just to remember events which today's constant news cycle make so easy to forget.
Interesting and thought-provoking...what more could you want from a book
The comprehensive effort to produce an overarching history of England is impressive and largely well-written.
Like a lot of modern historians there is a major effort to downplay the downsides and horrors of history by saying "it was worse elsewhere" without acknowledging that things were objectively terrible in the time and place of his narrative.
Particuarly disappointing is the latter end where he simply abases himself to the cult of Thatcher making a mockery of any claim to unbaisedness. She did indeed do important things but she also failed to take responsibility for most of her failures (in particular the smashing of the Northern economy) and he completely glosses over them in favour of bashing the 'loony left' the BBC and the Guardian.
Great for anyone unsure of English motivation and actions both nationally and internationally over the last few thousand years. A real eye opener to both the prides and shames of the English people.
This is the first history book I've read since school.
It seemed daunting with the size of it at a nuts 45+ hours and it's taken me months to get through.
Please don't let this stop you though from taking it on.
This book has helped me to have such a vastly more expansive view of history from our own little island perspective.
Not only that but it's made me fall even more deeply in love with my own country of birth!
I am so very proud to be English!
Thank you Robert!
Definitely! I have three school age children and I find books like this an invaluable source for gleaning information for their studies. Its good to place events in a chronological order as well as giving valuable context to the discussed episode. The first 1,400 years of history are covered in the first third of the book and the 19th & 20th Centuries are nearly half of the book's length. The focus shifts from Kings and Queens after the English Civil Wars, but that reflects the rise of the role of parliament in the governance of the country. Until Victoria it was only when England faced an existential threat that they get a mention. Like in the case of the replacement of James II by William of Orange.
He was able to get across the reams of dates and characters in a clear informative way.
Yes, I drank copious amounts of strong coffee but I eventually had resort to the illegal drug Speed to get me through the chapters on the early years of the 21st century... 45 hours long! I'm thinking of entering the Audible Endurance Listening Team!
A great history of England. It compares our Poor Laws or say the working conditions during the Industrial Revolution to other similar industrial powers, and however barbaric they appear to modern eyes, they reflected favourably to the practices in many other countries.
This is not only an excellent history, but the superb narration by Stephen Thorne really kept me interested. The history is roughly chronological but what sets it apart is the in depth look into different topics - the development of the legal system for example; yes, this really is fascinating and not as I had supposed.
"The Silk Roads: a new history of the world" is also very interesting and develops different topics within the chronology too.
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