Friday, July 8, 2016
England: A History
Rating: 2 Stars
Ugh. This was a tough one to get through. The history of England is complicated to begin with. England as we know it didn't really exist until Athelstan, grandson of my buddy Alfred the Great. And even then, it wasn't exactly England yet. It kind of starts with the Norman Conquest of Anglo-Saxon England and then glosses over all the best parts of the island's history that I care about. There was no mention whatsoever of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a mere paragraph about Richard I, and a total whitewashing of John. While I am not a huge fan of ALL Plantagenets, they are highly intriguing and they did rule England for 300 years. Yet, by 40% of the book, we are already at the dawn of Stuart rule by James VI/I. This might seem like a lot at first being devoted to the Plantagenets and Tudors, but you must also consider the fact that the book ends after World War II. That's something else I can't understand but, whatever. It is hardly even worth delving into.
As an aside, it has never been lost on me that the Tudors are in fact, and always have been, Welsh - not English. yet the English seem to overlook this now? And then at the same time looked down on the Welsh? Another thing that has never made any sense to me.
This quote I did appreciate, in regards to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots: "...Elizabeth managed to look the other way until the deed was done, and like a true daughter of her house, she saw to it that her secretary, William Davison, took the blame for the execution of Mary's death warrant" (30%). Yep, exactly. Elizabeth is the WORST. The author did not justice to Mary Tudor either, but he seems to approve a bit more of Elizabeth. Either way, nothing he says is particularly positive about any of them.
Where he really lost me: at 48% he called Cromwell the 'greatest Englishman of his century'. Um. No.
Around 55%, the only things keeping me going were: 1) it was written so generally that it was still an incredibly breezy read. It was not terribly specific, and not very detailed either. 2) At the time I was also operating under the assumption that eventually we'd get to the House of Windsor, William, and Harry. Especially Harry. You can imagine my disappointment then when, as I mentioned earlier, the books ends after WWII.
89%: Blah Blah British Imperialism, snooooze.
So, I guess have at it but I can't say I really recommend this one. The history of England is far too vast and complicated for this slim a volume - even one that ends after WWII. Don't take this one too seriously if you do give it a shot.