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Summary

The story of Britain from the earliest settlements in 3000 BC to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. To look back at the past is to understand the present. In this vivid account of over 4,000 years of British history, Simon Schama takes us on an epic journey which encompasses the very beginnings of the nation's identity, when the first settlers landed on Orkney.

From the successes and failures of the monarchy to the daily life of a Roman soldier stationed on Hadrian's Wall, Schama gives a vivid, fascinating account of the many different stories and struggles that lie behind the growth of our island nation. Simon Schama's major BBC2 series has shown him to be one of our most original and exciting historians.

©2012 Simon Schama (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about A History of Britain: Volume 1

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well written but hard to manage as an audiobook

Would you listen to A History of Britain: Volume 1 again? Why?

I may return to parts of this if I have a particular interest in a particular period and want to refresh my understanding.

Any additional comments?

This is to some degree a reference book and the lack of a table of contents and index and an inability to flick back and forth through the pages made it a less than perfect experience.

40 people found this helpful

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NOT a history of Britain

This is not the comprehensive history of Britain I was hoping for, it is a narrow history of the English monarchy, there is hardly any substantial reference to big driving influences in the country, the first few thousand years are glanced over, and 90% of the book is just the personal life of monarchs and those around them, a very old fashioned view of history, and biased towards the authors interests. About 20 minutes on pre-roman history and 3 hours + on the Tudors!

33 people found this helpful

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A history of England.

Scotland, Wales and Ireland are only mentioned when they rub up against the English story.

17 people found this helpful

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A History of Britain? No.

This was a history of England not Britain - there were even times when the pretence slipped and one was confused with the other.

16 people found this helpful

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Comprehensive, Informative, and Entertaining

Where does A History of Britain: Volume 1 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Loved the whole of this book and can't wait to listen to Volume 2, as this book stands up against my favourites, which are usually within the Sci-Fi genre. It is informative, in the level of information it gives, whilst being entertaining in itself, history in every bloody detail.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A History of Britain: Volume 1?

Roman history is one of my favourites and the way it is brought to life with individuals lives of the conscripts from across the Empire.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

this book made me think in terms of what I knew of this countries history, which it turns out was poor, and how the four countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland were inextricably joined throughout the ages. makes me want to look at British history more.

30 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Fun and educational

I have to start by saying that I love history but I am very much an amateur and so I can't vouch for how accurate this history is. I trust the author as he is often on TV, I remember him on the BBC so I think he is reliable.



This is an easy listen. It is history as story. Schama uses the characters, Kings and others to make the history come alive. I mostly listen my audio books while driving and I had no difficulty following the narrative, something with can be a problem with non fiction books.



I was a bit disappointed that Simon Schama did not narrate the book himself as I know his voice from TV. Having said that Stephen Thorne does a very good job and is easy to listen and to follow.



This is a good book, well read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history.

27 people found this helpful

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Captivating

Newbie to this Audible experience but loved every minute of it. Made walking to work informative, intriguing and curious. Mr Thorne was excellent, his diction first class

8 people found this helpful

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  • MR
  • 13-04-13

great listen

this is a well read book. i have enjoyed it allot and often go back to it. i was never particularly alert at school and history class mostly went in one ear and out the other. So i decided that i would like to get a better grasp of the events that preceded me and this was great way to start. it is easy going and has just the right level of depth never tacking you to far down a rabbit hole as to make you confused when you reemerge.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Good Overview of Early British Kings

The book "A History of Britain: Volume 1" covers British dynastic rulers from the time of the end of the Roman Empire until the end of the life of Elisabeth I.



As such, for the lay public, such as I, this is a perfectly-sized overview of all the British kings that one has heard about but that one will probably never read a biography of (with the exception of Henry VIII and Elisabeth I).



The only negative to this otherwise excellent book, is that the author begins with a pondering and philosophical introduction that rambles on for 26 minutes and almost made me stop listening. But I did not, and I am glad as the rest of the book is clear and unpretentious, even very humourous at times.

24 people found this helpful

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Glad I gave it a go.

I’m generally reluctant to read/listen to books purporting to be histories of Britain, as they often turn out to be histories of England - which is, of course, an “island”. However I was impressed by the scope of Schama’s history of the Jews, so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve not been disappointed. Entertaining, informative, myth-busting, intelligent and wide-ranging, I found it enjoyable and sometimes amusing.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Carrie
  • 22-03-19

Some History. Mostly a Monarchy Tabloid Rag

I became very frustrated and cheated with this book because I thought is was a book about British History. Here is a list of pre-1603 events completely left out of this book. Anything between the building of Hadrians wall and William the Conquer. The 100 years war. The Spanish Armada. The War of the Roses. Again. THE WAR OF THE ROSES. Some how this book on the history of Britain left out some of the most formative events of the period. Not a single paragraph. Maybe a sentence.
In contract, half of this book is devoted to any juicy bit of Tudor gossip he could dig up. detail after detail about every little detail you could ever want to know about Henry VIII, Ann Bolyn, Blood Mary and Elizabeth.in this book about the history of Britain, there is more written in this book about Elizabeth's dog than there is the War of the Roses.
If you would like a Tudor tabloid, this is the book for you. If you want a History of Britain, look somewhere else.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 17-02-14

Very Entertaining History of Britain

I thought this was a very interesting and entertaining history. It was rarely dull. I enjoyed learning about the different roots and layers of Britain. Stephen Thorne's voice is well suited for this book. The retelling of the different revolts and the stories of the royals were great. I have only a few complaints. It's rather a lengthy time period to squeeze into 1 volume. I realize that we simply know more about modern history than we do about the middle ages and before that, but it still seems like this could have been a 4-volume series rather than 3. The final 2 volumes of the series cover only 4 centuries (and really only 3.5 since post-WWII is essentially skimmed over briefly); the first volume covers 47 centuries. Anyway, there were times when I felt like Schama glossed over periods which I would have liked to learn more about. At times events would be mentioned and then not expounded upon and this was frustrating. Also, if you went into this book hoping to learn about the structure of British nobility and government you are only going to be partly satisfied. You will learn plenty about nobles, royals, and non-royals. You'll also hear about the different ways that someone of non-noble blood could become noble. However, if you want to know the difference between, say, an Earl and a Duke, you won't find it here. Similarly, you'll learn a great deal about the different arguments and power struggles between Parliament and the royals, but you won't learn about the different houses or even how the Parliament works as far as voting and things like that. I definitely think it would be beneficial to read a book with a sort of "British society and government for dummies" feel before reading this book.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Gary
  • 28-05-13

History is fun and he makes it so

Before this book I didn't know a Stuart from a Tudor, now I do. The author's philosophy is that history should be as fun to listen to as possible. He does that with ease with this volume. He really gets most interesting when he is delving completely into some event or person such as the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror or the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

The book ends abruptly leaving me wanting for more. I'll probably use one more credit and get Volume II.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Micah E Lott
  • 26-05-16

Great story-telling, lovely voice

Good sense of character and plot. Sensitive to the significant detail. Informative without being dry or pedantic. Very enjoyable history! And the reader has a pleasant, resonant voice.

5 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 31-03-13

A History of the English Monarchy from 1066-1603

Schama is a talented writer, and his narrative flows easily, but it is really just a popular history of the English Monarchy from William the Conqueror through Elizabeth 1. Even then, while he hits on all of the major points of that time frame, he obviously felt that there were really only a few Monarchs who deserved more than a cursory mention, leaving this very much a book in the Great Man of History tradition.

William I, Edward I, Henry II and Beckett, Henry III and Eleanor and the Tudors all get lots of press. Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Chaucer, Shakespeare, the War of the Roses, Richard III, the Crusades and many other aspects of British history are given scant mention.

Thorne does a fine job as narrator, and it is a well written book, with a sly wit, but the subtitle is a bit misleading.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Natalie Bartels
  • 23-12-16

Intriguing introduction

Would you listen to A History of Britain: Volume 1 again? Why?

Yes. The information is so packed in there. I finished this a few months ago, and I am afraid I have retained probably less than a 10th of the information.

Who was your favorite character and why?

King Alfred the Great. Brilliant.

Any additional comments?

Probably written for a British audience. Had the feeling that I was pretending to know what was happening half the time because I got disoriented in time and eras.

3 people found this helpful

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  • gwilsonmd
  • 17-10-16

Very engaging

Although the narrator did a wonderful job, I was slightly disappointed that Mr. had not narrated. I enjoy his style!!

2 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 16-01-22

Informal and Magisterial

In a lifetime of reading history, I’ve noticed something about historians. After a certain age, they unbutton their waistcoats, put up their feet, and become chatty. Writing at the tender age of 55 (back in 2000), Simon Schama opens his second chapter with the words, “Historians tend to like the quiet life, and they usually get it…”

It’s one of the charms of this book. One gets the sense that you’re sitting with Schama over drinks, getting the benefit of his life of researching, reflecting on, and writing history. And that includes opinions on current academic fashions. For example:

Despite the trend of portraying Vikings as traders more than raiders, he thinks they really were as bad as their contemporaries testify.

1066 really was the watershed that past historians insisted upon—no matter how much the contemporary academy tends to downplay it.

The 19th Century’s desire to trace their institutions to Anglo-Saxon times “is not entirely wrong”. The shires established before the Conquest persisted until 1974.

Even more than 1215, 1258 deserves to be enshrined in Britain’s national memory as the year the barons, “abolished the absolute monarchy of the Anglo-Norman state”.

Most importantly, this volume traces the evolution of a dawning national consciousness, Welsh, Irish and Scottish as well as English, that in turn circumscribed the power of the throne and made it a servant of the nation rather than an instrument of the royal will. A telling counterweight to our popular notions of freedom as a strictly modern invention.

Unlike more formal history, the conversational tone of the writing makes this very easy listening. And Stephen Thorne’s deep, engaging, intelligent voice makes it even easier. With so many merits, one hardly notices the non-existent navigation.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ryan Fox
  • 10-12-21

Misleading Title

Downloaded this whole series thinking I was getting a real in depth history of Britain. When is described 3000BC I was expecting a real delve into ancient British history. To my disappointment there is less than a paragraph of this time then suddenly we are in Roman Britain. Within the first hour and a half we are at 600AD. Would not recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mike
  • 21-11-15

Masterpiece

Beautifully written and equally as well narrated,this detailed history of Britain keeps one eager to hear more as each chapter goes by.l cannot wait until the next two volumes become available on Audible.

1 person found this helpful