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  • This Sovereign Isle

  • Britain in and out of Europe
  • By: Robert Tombs
  • Narrated by: Mark Elstob
  • Length: 5 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (104 ratings)

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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Geography comes before history. Islands cannot have the same history as continental plains. The United Kingdom is a European country, but not the same kind of European country as Germany, Poland or Hungary. For most of the 150 centuries during which Britain has been inhabited it has been on the edge, culturally and literally, of mainland Europe. 

In this succinct book, Tombs shows that the decision to leave the EU is historically explicable - though not made historically inevitable - by Britain's very different historical experience, especially in the 20th century and because of our more extensive and deeper ties outside Europe. He challenges the orthodox view that Brexit was due solely to British or English exceptionalism: in choosing to leave the EU, the British, he argues, were in many ways voting as typical Europeans. 

©2021 Robert Tombs (P)2021 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Retired historian's musings on Brexit

There have been plenty of books which have been critical of the reasons that the UK narrowly voted to leave the EU in 2016 but, surprisingly precious few in support of Brexit. Retired history professor Robert Tombs has attempted to restore the balance with this short book. In the first quarter, we hear of the historical relations between the countries of "these islands" and the "continent" and as you would expect this is done well and the professor is on safe ground. Until, that is, we reach more recent times and we hear the story of how Britain victoriously defeated Germany in World War 2 with strangely no reference to the parts played by either the USA or the Soviet Union.
The middle section of the book becomes increasingly cantankerous and we hear the author's views that membership of the EU resulted in no economic benefits for the UK, the introduction of the Euro currency was "disastrous" and the Common Agricultural Policy "disgraceful". The professor was surprised at the size of the Remain vote in 2016, describes Nigel Farage as "pugnacious" and systematically dismisses the views of the CBI and Chambers of Commerce (apparently not representative of UK business) and any media that supported Remain including The Economist. By this stage the book comes over more as a ludicrous rant than a reasoned argument.
The last quarter of the book strays onto other subjects where, quite bizarrely and despite the facts, he claims that the UK has handled the COVID pandemic more effectively than any other country and this is, of course, all due to Brexit.
Most worryingly, there is little in this book to justify the benefits of Brexit. At the end, the professor suggests that the way froward is for the UK to join forces with other English speaking countries in what he calls the Anglosphere.

12 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Enlightening

I enjoyed this book. The history was clearly explained and changed my view of Brexit. I was a remainer, and like many others felt like it was the end of the world when we left. This book makes a strong argument for why this isn't necessarily the
case. As well as being well written, it was well read. I'm now considering buying a paper copy.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Simply brilliant distillation of complex topic

Tombs covers every angle of the UK's membership of the EEC and then EU, the reasons for Britain's unhappiness with our membership and our attempts to change the EU.

2 people found this helpful

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Book of the Year?

A serious work of history... breathtaking in its scope and pace.... debunking myths in every chapter.

2 people found this helpful

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The first historical review of Brexit which illuminates the past and indicates potential futures outside of the EU.

Everyone should read this whether they voted to Remain or to Leave. Starting from a review of Britain’s relationship with Europe and the earlier days of the birth of the EU it takes the reader through to the present day. It poses important questions of where Britain goes next.

1 person found this helpful

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Don’t agree with many parts but a must read

As a committed pro European and remain campaigner its vital to understand those who believe the opposing view. This is more of a history arguably a but one sided and the narrator talks with a bit of a sneer. Much to make you think and especially the authors view of sovereignty

1 person found this helpful

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Very succinct and enjoyable listen.

Makes a change to hear a well articulated view on Brexit and its causes that reflects the majority of many people's views. It also lays out the EU's many flaws which many remainers refuse to accept or acknowledge. Well narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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facts not biased dogma

Refreshing arguments no scaremongering a new chapter without fear for the UK ups and downs I'm sure but the people's choice must be respected .

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Dull, depressing and devoid of vision. Well read

Dull, depressing and devoid of vision. I hated it, but it was very well narrated indeed.

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Good historic perspective

If you want a well written historic insight into the reason why British people don't care for the European Union, this is it.