Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (22 Oct 2007)
One I spotted on the shelf in Tesco a while before Xmas, and decided to give to bellinghwoman as a present. She read it, chortling every now and again, and has now passed it on to me.
Firstly, this really ought to be called 'History of England'. Or maybe, 'History of the Home Counties', for like almost every other similar book, it doesn't cover Scottish history, except when it impinges on us down here. Nor Welsh, and we might as well forget the Irish, unless they were raising enough of a ruction for London to notice.
However, that aside, this is an engaging and educational overview of almost exactly two thousand years of history, starting with Caesar's expeditionary outing, and finishing at the end of World War II. It's got the usual foreshortening effect, with 10% of the book devoted to the first 11 centuries, but that's not unusual. It's somewhat caustic on occasion - not as much as Mark Steel, for example, but he does point out that, for example, the Magna Carta wasn't exactly a Bill of Rights for the common man, let alone the common woman. Having said that, it's fairly optimistic, pointing out that there's something in the national character which managed to have revolutions without ever quite admitting that's what they were (not just the English Civil War - and he's very uncomplimentary about Cromwell, calling him the English Ayatollah).
History as entertainment.