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Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

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Peter Ackroyd, whose work has always been underpinned by a profound interest in and understanding of England's history, now tells the epic story of England itself. In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England's prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the bu Peter Ackroyd, whose work has always been underpinned by a profound interest in and understanding of England's history, now tells the epic story of England itself. In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England's prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the building of Stonehenge to the founding of the two great glories of medieval England: common law and the cathedrals. He shows us glimpses of the country's most distant past--a Neolithic stirrup found in a grave, a Roman fort, a Saxon tomb, a medieval manor house--and describes in rich prose the successive waves of invaders who made England English, despite being themselves Roman, Viking, Saxon, or Norman French. With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place and his acute eye for the telling detail, Ackroyd recounts the story of warring kings, of civil strife, and foreign wars. But he also gives us a vivid sense of how England's early people lived: the homes they built, the clothes the wore, the food they ate, even the jokes they told. All are brought vividly to life through the narrative mastery of one of Britain's finest writers.


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Peter Ackroyd, whose work has always been underpinned by a profound interest in and understanding of England's history, now tells the epic story of England itself. In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England's prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the bu Peter Ackroyd, whose work has always been underpinned by a profound interest in and understanding of England's history, now tells the epic story of England itself. In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England's prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the building of Stonehenge to the founding of the two great glories of medieval England: common law and the cathedrals. He shows us glimpses of the country's most distant past--a Neolithic stirrup found in a grave, a Roman fort, a Saxon tomb, a medieval manor house--and describes in rich prose the successive waves of invaders who made England English, despite being themselves Roman, Viking, Saxon, or Norman French. With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place and his acute eye for the telling detail, Ackroyd recounts the story of warring kings, of civil strife, and foreign wars. But he also gives us a vivid sense of how England's early people lived: the homes they built, the clothes the wore, the food they ate, even the jokes they told. All are brought vividly to life through the narrative mastery of one of Britain's finest writers.

30 review for Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jayson

    (B+) 78% | Good Notes: Very readable, but speeds too quickly through the middle ages and its antecedent eras in a rush to reach the Tudors.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”The house of the Plantagenets, from Henry II to Richard III himself was brimming with blood. In their lust for power the members of the family turned upon one another. King John murdered, or caused to be murdered, his nephew Arthur; Richard II dispatched his uncle, Thomas of Gloucester; Richard II was in turn killed on the orders of his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke: Henry VI was killed in the Tower on the orders of his cousin, Edward IV; Edward IV murdered his brother, Clarence, just as his own tw ”The house of the Plantagenets, from Henry II to Richard III himself was brimming with blood. In their lust for power the members of the family turned upon one another. King John murdered, or caused to be murdered, his nephew Arthur; Richard II dispatched his uncle, Thomas of Gloucester; Richard II was in turn killed on the orders of his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke: Henry VI was killed in the Tower on the orders of his cousin, Edward IV; Edward IV murdered his brother, Clarence, just as his own two sons were murdered by their uncle. It is hard to imagine a family more steeped in slaughter and revenge, of which the Wars of the Roses were only one effusion. It might be thought that some curse had been laid upon the house of Plantagenets, except of course in the world of kings the palm of victory always goes to the most violent and the most ruthless. It could be said that the royal family was the begetter of organized crime.” Well I didn’t really give much more thought to the Plantagenets than any other royal family until my cousin Nancy began researching our family history. It seems my ancestor James Ives (1775-1802) convinced (bamboozled) this rather wealthy girl from a well connected family in Boston to marry him. Her name was Anna Ashley (1782-1822). So far research has not brought to light exactly how James was in a position to marry so well. His livelihood is murky, so he must have been charming or attractive or at the very least a smooth talker. The interesting thing about this marriage is that it insured that at least a thimble-full of Plantagenet blood is circulating in my body. Peter Ackroyd, who I have always thought of as a novelist, has probably written about as many nonfiction books as he has novels. I’ve enjoyed his books and tend to pick them up when I run across them. His latest project is a six-volume history of England of which this is the first volume. First thing to understand is that this is an overview, so if you are looking for a drill down into a particular time of English history that is not the purpose of this book. I knew a lot of what Ackroyd covers in this volume, but it was still nice to refresh my memory of the period. I also made several notes about a few people that I would like to read more about for instance Alfred the Great’s sons and grandsons. ”The descendants of Alfred, the sons of Woden, had ruled the country for 145 years. Not one of them was ever proclaimed to be a tyrant.” Athelstan, son of Alfred, in particular is of interest because he is considered the first King of England where Alfred was referred to as the King of the Angles and of the Saxons. Bernard Cornwell has written a compelling series of books covering Alfred the Great’s reign and his battles and alliances with the influx of Dane incursions into England. Sure the Dane’s raped and pillaged, but after acquiring and keeping territory they started bringing their women and children with them and settled into what turned out to be an island with lands well suited for agriculture. This happened many centuries before the Romans conquered the island for the fertile lands to provide grain for a hungry citizenship back home. Richard the III end of the Plantagenet line of kings This book covers from Stonehenge to the end of the Plantagenet rule with the death of Richard III in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. I also had a relative that fought on the side of the Tudor usurpers (well how they are referred to in my household anyway) he was knighted on the battlefield by Henry VII for his role in helping to slay Richard. ”The houses of York and Lancaster were in fact two sides of the same ruling family. The house of Lancaster was descended from the fourth son of Edward III, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster; the house of York was descended from the fifth son of the same king, Edmund, duke of York, whose youngest son had married the great-granddaughter of the third son. They are sometimes describes as the third and fourth sons respectively, but this omits one male child who lived for six months. Their closeness, however, bred only enmity and ferocity. Blue blood was often bad blood. When I was a kid, you will find this shocking, I was always reading. I remember I was reading about William the Conqueror (1024-1087)one summer and mentioned to my grandfather that he was named after an English King. He looked at me with disinterest and then crammed a black banana in his mouth probably with the intent of making me nauseous and would save him the trouble of actually shooing me away. His name was not William, but Harold Ashley Ives. Notice the nod still given to the Ashley family in the 20th century. Harold was King in that fateful year 1066. ”His reign, lasting nine months and nine days, was one of the shortest in English history.” He was not a bad king nor was he a poor soldier. He just happened to be in the way of one of the most ambitious and best field commanders of the day William the Conqueror. William the Conqueror Now William had no claim to the throne, not even such a weak connection as Henry VII(1457-1509). Henry’s claim to the throne was that his paternal grandfather secretly married the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. What he and Henry VII had in common was that they both took the crown at the point of their sword. Now my ancestor Anna Ashley is descended from Henry I(1068-1135), fourth son of William the Conqueror. Unfortunately Henry I did not have a legitimate son. He had a very capable son named Robert (1100-1147) who would probably have made a great King, but he was illegitimate, and therefore; could not claim his birthright. The Plantagenets like most dynasties sowed the seeds of lust in many fields. Henry I made all of his supporters swear they would support his daughter Matilda to be the first crowned Queen of England. Matilda had an acerbic nature and was not well liked coupled with the fact that England wasn’t ready to follow a woman. This resulted in very little support for her to ascend to the throne. Cousin Stephen was crowned King and that touched off a war with Matilda that lasted from 1139-54 accomplishing little, but creating chaos among the peasant populations. In the end Stephen names Matilda’s son Henry II(1133-1189) to be his successor which puts my direct line of ancestors back in power. John (1167-1216), the baby of the marriage between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine outlasts his brothers and comes to the throne. So yes I do have to claim John as his son Henry III(1207-1272) is also a direct ancestor to Anna Ashley. Henry was the last of a line of king ancestors in my direct line of genealogy. We are descended from Henry's son Edmund Crouchback(1245-1296) the 1st Earl of Lancaster. He was the younger brother of King Edward I. Edmund Crouchback brother to a King So my cousins, female and male, that bear the name Ashley do not fully realize why that name has been so carefully passed from generation to generation, but I’ve noticed that they are also naming their children Ashley, so it is very probable that the name will stay attached to the Ives family for many more generations. Ashley was on the shortlist for my name, but my Aunt Shirley insisted that my name was supposed to be Jeffrey. In moments of fancy I think of myself as named after the ancestor Geoffrey V Count of Anjou (1113-1169) who had such a stormy relationship with Empress Matilda(1102-1169), but the makeup sex must have been superb because they sired three boys insuring a solid bedrock of claims to the English throne. Geoffrey of Anjou Ackroyd admits most of the history of this period that is available is the history of royalty. He does write vignettes between chapters that focus on the lives of the peasants, roads, crops, land, stone and brick building, and the growth of communities. This is a history steeped in blood, volume two will cover the Tudors, the usurping bastards :-), and I will discover if they do any better at controlling the hoards of power hungry dukes and lords, and tempering their own lusts for conquest and fame. I’ve taken a peek and it looks like a wild ride.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This is an incredible history book about England, starting with the earliest inhabitants thousands of years ago, moving briskly through the Roman invasion and the years leading up to William the Conqueror, and then wrapping up with the tenth through the fifteenth centuries. Most of the drama focuses on the kings and their political exploits, but the author does check in on the peasants every now and again. This book is more than 400 pages and is dense with facts and stories. Ackroyd writes well a This is an incredible history book about England, starting with the earliest inhabitants thousands of years ago, moving briskly through the Roman invasion and the years leading up to William the Conqueror, and then wrapping up with the tenth through the fifteenth centuries. Most of the drama focuses on the kings and their political exploits, but the author does check in on the peasants every now and again. This book is more than 400 pages and is dense with facts and stories. Ackroyd writes well and includes some dry humor, but I'll be honest that I started this book three different times before I finally powered through and finished. I find this kind of history fascinating, but I also had to take breaks and alternate my reading. I enjoyed the author's style and I learned a lot about how England was formed. I plan to look up Ackroyd's other books the next time I want a history fix. Recommended for fans of world history. Opening Paragraph "When the first sarsen stone was raised in the circle of Stonehenge, the land we call England was already very ancient. Close to the village of Happisburgh, in Norfolk, seventy-eight flint artifacts have recently been found; they were scattered approximately 900,000 years ago. So the long story begins." Favorite Quotes "It was taken for granted that every man must have a lord. Lordship was no longer dependent upon tribal relations, but on the possession of land. Mastery was assumed by those who owned the most territory. No other test of secular leadership was necessary. Land was everything. It was in a literal sense the ground of being. Land granted you power and wealth; it allowed you to dispense gifts and to bend others to your will." "Good men rarely make good kings."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cullen

    I'm 100 pages in and mesmerized. This answers so many questions I've had for decades about who the English actually were, what tribes they were composed of, and how both the "royalty" and "nobility" came to be, and who they were. Amazing. (I put those words in quotes because I think they're imaginary, foul concepts. Obviously, I recognize that such classes were created and had a monumental impact, and I'm fascinated by them, but I sure don't recognize them as "noble," much less royal.) Obviously, I'm 100 pages in and mesmerized. This answers so many questions I've had for decades about who the English actually were, what tribes they were composed of, and how both the "royalty" and "nobility" came to be, and who they were. Amazing. (I put those words in quotes because I think they're imaginary, foul concepts. Obviously, I recognize that such classes were created and had a monumental impact, and I'm fascinated by them, but I sure don't recognize them as "noble," much less royal.) Obviously, this is a provisional review/rating. I hope to return to to fill in more as I progress. I actually like how these sites allow a person to communicate not just how they felt about the book after they were all finished, but a bit about how the experience unfolded. UPDATE: Well, I finished, and it had some problems. I'll try to return to lay it out. 2 years later (January 2017), I'm 300-plus pages into Robert Tombs' "The English and Their History," and highly recommend it. I think Tombs' approach is much better, even though it's the entire history in 1,000 pages, so a bit less room for this period.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    Ackroyd appears to have written this for people who don't read much history. His pop-journalistic style - 'Death was always at hand" - and selected themes - all kings are greedy and brutal, the ancient past underlies modern England combine with what seems to be superficial secondary research make it unsatisfying history, though many people enjoy his style. In typical Ackroyd style, he interleaves his generalities with nuggets of detail. One I particularly liked, and so did he, obviously, because Ackroyd appears to have written this for people who don't read much history. His pop-journalistic style - 'Death was always at hand" - and selected themes - all kings are greedy and brutal, the ancient past underlies modern England combine with what seems to be superficial secondary research make it unsatisfying history, though many people enjoy his style. In typical Ackroyd style, he interleaves his generalities with nuggets of detail. One I particularly liked, and so did he, obviously, because he refers to it at least twice, is that the measurement of the yard (0.9 meters) was declared to be 'the distance from the end of the king's nose to the end of his outstretched thumb'. The King at the time was Henry I. I wonder how they kept the measure constant after he died?

  6. 5 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    The author writes on page 424 of my copy "The coffin was later used as a horse trough, and the bones of Richard III scattered." Well that turned out to be a bit of bad luck in terms of writing the subjective as historical fact. Like all these historical overviews one always learns something new. I had never heard of the Gough Map for example. But that hardly makes up for a poorish book. I am disappointed as this should have been a very useful historical overview of England from the dawns of time The author writes on page 424 of my copy "The coffin was later used as a horse trough, and the bones of Richard III scattered." Well that turned out to be a bit of bad luck in terms of writing the subjective as historical fact. Like all these historical overviews one always learns something new. I had never heard of the Gough Map for example. But that hardly makes up for a poorish book. I am disappointed as this should have been a very useful historical overview of England from the dawns of time up to the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, one that could be recommended to the newcomer, maybe the high school reader looking for something to bolster their knowledge. Sadly for me there was far to much speculation and with that unsubstantiated comment. No footnotes. If one is to speculate and make comment back it up with footnotes. The bibliography is interesting enough, though it seems to me the author has used too many sources that are a bit too far into the past considering the plethora of specialist historians at present churning out tomes about specifics. I will read out the entire serious and hope they improve.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    Well written, but sometimes his novelist's imagination seems to get away from him a little (as when he posits that English cattle raids inspired the Iliad, or compares William the Conqueror dedicating a daughter to a nunnery to Agamemnon and Iphigenia), which is when I really wish he'd cite his sources. Well written, but sometimes his novelist's imagination seems to get away from him a little (as when he posits that English cattle raids inspired the Iliad, or compares William the Conqueror dedicating a daughter to a nunnery to Agamemnon and Iphigenia), which is when I really wish he'd cite his sources.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I'll give it a solid 3 Stars but it could have been more. I take away a higher rating as it had no maps whatsoever and also did not give any help in deciphering the intricate and confusing relationships among all the players-especially needed after 1066. I'm sure the native English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh would not need any such guides but my colonial mind could not keep track of who begat who. And no maps when there are so many shires, counties, battles, marches, invasions, castles, palaces I'll give it a solid 3 Stars but it could have been more. I take away a higher rating as it had no maps whatsoever and also did not give any help in deciphering the intricate and confusing relationships among all the players-especially needed after 1066. I'm sure the native English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh would not need any such guides but my colonial mind could not keep track of who begat who. And no maps when there are so many shires, counties, battles, marches, invasions, castles, palaces, etc. Come on, give us non-English some help! Plenty of interesting information mixed in with the intrigues on who gets to be king. I gained a decent understanding of the progress from autocratic rule to various democratic structures. It's clear, the rise of democratic practices was more a result of short-term needs of the moment than any intentional actions. The big benefit of this book is I have a better idea of what books I should pull off my rather large European history shelf to read and in what order.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Victor Gibson

    This is a very ambitious book, covering the period from prehistory up to the death of Henry VII, and really it would be a good ideas to have some sort of computer programme such as Visio to hand while reading it, because the relationships between the main players becomes confusing. But this is not really a fault. I was prompted to read this book after reading the author's version of the Canterbury Tales, and I'm pleased I did. It would be difficult to find a more informative and entertaining volu This is a very ambitious book, covering the period from prehistory up to the death of Henry VII, and really it would be a good ideas to have some sort of computer programme such as Visio to hand while reading it, because the relationships between the main players becomes confusing. But this is not really a fault. I was prompted to read this book after reading the author's version of the Canterbury Tales, and I'm pleased I did. It would be difficult to find a more informative and entertaining volume. You are drawn into the barbarity of much of English history and entertained by the more whimsical descriptions of life, particularly in the middle ages. I am a native of the English county of Wiltshire which contains both the site of Stonehenge and the Avebury Ring. Every hilltop is occupied by a prehistoric fort and the Wansdyke winds across some miles of the countryside, possibly constructed by the Saxon settlers. Peter Ackroyd captures in his prose the feeling I had when standing on a Wiltshire hilltop looking at 2000 year old scars on the landscape. If you want to know more about the English read this!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tristram Shandy

    Never Tell Your Foe that Your Foot Aches This is one of the saws attributed to the medieval Hendyng, who must have been a quarry of proverbial wisdom and therefore very been popular in – and, of course, outside – schoolrooms, and I liked this adage so much that I chose it to introduce my review on Peter Ackroyd’s first volume of The History of England with because I think it sums up pretty much the spirit of the age. In this first volume, Ackroyd presents the history of what was later to be calle Never Tell Your Foe that Your Foot Aches This is one of the saws attributed to the medieval Hendyng, who must have been a quarry of proverbial wisdom and therefore very been popular in – and, of course, outside – schoolrooms, and I liked this adage so much that I chose it to introduce my review on Peter Ackroyd’s first volume of The History of England with because I think it sums up pretty much the spirit of the age. In this first volume, Ackroyd presents the history of what was later to be called England from its dimmest beginnings to the death of Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs. It is a book for those who maybe want to brush up their knowledge on pre-Tudor English history and still enjoy a fast-paced, intriguing narrative, and it is definitely not a cup of tea for readers who exclusively take a more serious and scholarly interest in history, mustering up the patience and determination to deal with structures, long developments and systematic comparisons. Ackroyd also does not seem to have any particular theory in mind when he presents these years of English history, i.e. there is neither the optimistic concept of “progress” at work, nor is there any more clear-cut question underlying the whole enterprise. The only thing Ackroyd points out is the aspect of continuity, but this often happens either on the basis of truisms – yes, even people of the Stonehenge age have lived in stratified and organized societies, and yes, we still use the streets our forebears built, and lots of modern towns and cities are standing on ancient settlement sites –, or they are a bit silly: I cannot count how often Ackroyd pointed out that medieval English people’s love for drink is something that still prevails. Everyone knows that love for drink is a timeless human factor, come on! However, all these points I just mentioned should not be taken as an attempt to disparage the book. On the contrary, it is a highly enjoyable, fascinating and – it may be permitted to use this adjective – entertaining account of the origins of England, the early English kings, the Danish interlude and William the Conqueror plus all those Plantagenets who came after him. The author makes a lot of the usually internecine family relations between the Plantagenet monarchs, and in hindsight it is often difficult to tell all those power-hungry monarchs apart, but he also intersperses vignettes of everyday life, e.g. chapters on town life, on law and crime, on childhood and games people played, and so on. Altogether, it is a very vivid and remarkable portrait of the past that Ackroyd paints, and it is not to be doubted that the author draws on extensive knowledge although I think that I would have preferred for him to throw in some footnotes now and then. In between the lines of this monarch-centred account of English history, you can even glimpse that of Parliament, although you are obliged to diligently collect the pieces of the puzzle, and of a growing sense of English nationhood. What it all boils down to is the portrait of an epoch whose monarchs and noblemen were probably not any less power-hungry, vane, treacherous and egoistic than our present-day politicians are, but who were infinitely more interesting. It is probably not easy to write an account of English history that would satisfy both the layman and the expert and that would cover all the aspects and choose the vantage point every potential reader could wish for, and so all I can say is that if you want to read a history focusing on the monarchy and its representatives and adding vignettes of everyday history in between, this is the right book for you. I wish I had had the discipline to make some notes during the reading of this book in order not to forget the major information but now it is too late. Poor old scatterbrainy Tristram will eventually only remember some medieval jokes, like: ”What is the broadest water and the least danger to walk over? The dew. What is the cleanest leaf among all other leaves? The holly leaf, for nobody will wipe his arse with it. How many calves’ tails can reach from the earth to the sky? No more than one, if it is long enough.”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I picked this up on a whim without hearing anything about it, unfamiliar with Ackroyd's other books but with a general enjoyment of British history (currently stronger now that I've forsaken my homeland for one of the colonies!). My knowledge of pre-Tudor history is patchy at best though. Problem solved. We are led from the very early days of the native peoples right through a series of conquests and colonisation, wars, famous battles and rivalries, mythical figures and folklore, up until the en I picked this up on a whim without hearing anything about it, unfamiliar with Ackroyd's other books but with a general enjoyment of British history (currently stronger now that I've forsaken my homeland for one of the colonies!). My knowledge of pre-Tudor history is patchy at best though. Problem solved. We are led from the very early days of the native peoples right through a series of conquests and colonisation, wars, famous battles and rivalries, mythical figures and folklore, up until the end of Henry VII. Though he claims it's a history of England and the people, it more honestly a history of the Kings of England during this period, each chapter taking them one at a time. I have to say, that suits me fine but it seems to have annoyed some. We do start to get a sense of England as it develops, slowly, usually through inconsequential turns of events and chance occurrences but it's far from the main focus. Between the main chapters are shorter vignettes into various aspects of daily life, the food, agriculture, playthings etc. that make up life. They're good but over too soon. I found the first few chapters too brief, almost listing events and changes without much sense of significance. However, it quickly improves probably reflecting the greater level of information surviving about the later eras. The writing is smooth and easy to follow though at times the sheer number of different names and people becomes a little overwhelming. Still, I really enjoyed it and have a greater understanding of that era of English history. For those with an interest but no real appreciation of these times it's well worth reading. This is supposed to be the first of six volumes and I think the real challenge is ahead. Particularly the next volume on the reformation, a period already heavily documented and generally well known by many. If he can manage to steer away a little from the Monarchy, instead focusing on the development of the people and culture that make England in more detail, it will make a more engaging read. I will happily read the next.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob Mayer

    If you've wondered what the real precursor to Game of Thrones is, read this book. The power plays as England pulled together and became a nation has enough intrigue and interesting historical facts to make even the non-history buff enjoy reading it. The author writes with wit and great insight. I love the details of history and the amazing connections that if I made up in one of my novels readers would say I was over the top-- but in this book they're the real deal. Truth is indeed stranger than f If you've wondered what the real precursor to Game of Thrones is, read this book. The power plays as England pulled together and became a nation has enough intrigue and interesting historical facts to make even the non-history buff enjoy reading it. The author writes with wit and great insight. I love the details of history and the amazing connections that if I made up in one of my novels readers would say I was over the top-- but in this book they're the real deal. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. It's not just about the history, it's also about the history which this history hinged on. This is the first in a series of books on the history of England and highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Quit after 130 pages. Simply couldn't stand the unending gross and unsupported generalizations and the occasional outright error of fact. This may well improve as he moves beyond the Normans to better-documented eras, but there are no notes at all I have no confidence in the author's authority. I'm not the sort who reads every foot note, but when I have a question about a statement I do like to know how the author came by his information. And not a single map in the entire book! A history withou Quit after 130 pages. Simply couldn't stand the unending gross and unsupported generalizations and the occasional outright error of fact. This may well improve as he moves beyond the Normans to better-documented eras, but there are no notes at all I have no confidence in the author's authority. I'm not the sort who reads every foot note, but when I have a question about a statement I do like to know how the author came by his information. And not a single map in the entire book! A history without a map is ridiculous. Too bad, because I've loved some of Ackroyd's fiction.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian Willis

    Superb. The best elements of Ackroyd's writing combine with his eccentricities to make this an unimpeachable history of the nation of England. How is it unimpeachable? Ackroyd takes us from the earliest known elements of life on the English territory through to the reign of Henry VII, the moment it appears where more modern structures of English government emerged. In 448 pages, he accomplishes this by taking two critical approaches: he alternates his chapters in two styles. The first is a more s Superb. The best elements of Ackroyd's writing combine with his eccentricities to make this an unimpeachable history of the nation of England. How is it unimpeachable? Ackroyd takes us from the earliest known elements of life on the English territory through to the reign of Henry VII, the moment it appears where more modern structures of English government emerged. In 448 pages, he accomplishes this by taking two critical approaches: he alternates his chapters in two styles. The first is a more straightforward linear tale of the reigns of monarchs and their dealing with their advisors, family, and citizens. These are the tales of the early rulers, the Norman Conquest, Stephen and Mathilda, Henry II and his sons Richard I and John, the Williams kings I-III, the depositions of Edward II and Richard II, Henry V, the Wars of the Roses, the emergence of Henry VII and peeks at the Tudor dynasty. Alternated with these perspectives from the top are smaller chapters in a style more familiar to readers of "London: A Biography" and "Thames" and "Albion". Ackroyd takes common elements of English life such as the town structure, mercantilism, play, school, religion, and marriage and gives a broader perspective of what it would feel like to live in England in each era. Full of small factoids, one gains an impression not unlike Seurat's pointillism, where each sentence seems random and diffuse but adds up to a larger "truth", much like reality itself. It's an impressive piece of work. Ackroyd thereby seems to cover everything to great depth in 448 pages without overwhelming the reader. I couldn't really put it down. From Volume 2 onwards (6 projected as of this writing), Ackroyd will cover approximately a century per book, with 2 = 16th century, 3 = 17th, 4 = 18th, 5 = 19th, and 6 = 20th. This seems to be the project that Ackroyd truly was born to write. If you are an Anglophile as I am, an essential read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sud666

    Foundation is a good layman's introduction to English history. It is more of a survey book filled with cool historical minutiae from the origin of names to different cultural traditions to come from this period. It is written in a very easy to read format and is readily accessible to any reader. But this is not an in-depth historical work, but that might increase it's appeal to the average reader. Each chapter about a ruler is interspaced with a small chapter about some cultural or historical con Foundation is a good layman's introduction to English history. It is more of a survey book filled with cool historical minutiae from the origin of names to different cultural traditions to come from this period. It is written in a very easy to read format and is readily accessible to any reader. But this is not an in-depth historical work, but that might increase it's appeal to the average reader. Each chapter about a ruler is interspaced with a small chapter about some cultural or historical concept- from climate change to house building. While not the most academic of books, it is a great little read. Ackroyd's history is a good "primer" and has an extensive bibliography that can lead more serious readers to do their own additional research. Will this be considered a magnum opus of British history? No. But, it IS a very entertaining, easy to read and has historical tidbits that are fascinating. Recommend for anyone looking for a good introduction to English history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    For someone like myself, who knows patches of English history but has never had an opportunity to grasp the wider picture, Foundation is the perfect remedy. It's a remarkable achievement of historical writing, somehow cramming in thousands of years of history without seeming overwhelming - creating a bold, enjoyable narrative from a complex and multi-faceted history. Ackryod carefully balances out his own enthusiasm and narrative flair with a solid respect for the history he's describing, and is For someone like myself, who knows patches of English history but has never had an opportunity to grasp the wider picture, Foundation is the perfect remedy. It's a remarkable achievement of historical writing, somehow cramming in thousands of years of history without seeming overwhelming - creating a bold, enjoyable narrative from a complex and multi-faceted history. Ackryod carefully balances out his own enthusiasm and narrative flair with a solid respect for the history he's describing, and is careful to present multiple perspectives where possible. The usual trap of the popular historian is sensationalism - Ackroyd deftly avoids this, creating a history that is hugely enjoyable to read while also being a genuine education.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris D.

    Peter Ackroyd begins his history of England with this volume of the series, as the subtitle states Ackroyd takes us to Henry VIII in this book which I enjoyed more as I went along in the work. Because the period examined is so large it is a survey work that goes into more detail as Ackroyd reaches the 12th century as more archival sources are extant. It is mainly a history of Kings as the sources the author relies on concentrates on the monarchs. However there are small chapters that are scattere Peter Ackroyd begins his history of England with this volume of the series, as the subtitle states Ackroyd takes us to Henry VIII in this book which I enjoyed more as I went along in the work. Because the period examined is so large it is a survey work that goes into more detail as Ackroyd reaches the 12th century as more archival sources are extant. It is mainly a history of Kings as the sources the author relies on concentrates on the monarchs. However there are small chapters that are scattered throughout the history where Ackroyd describes day to day life in a certain century, how the peasants lived and the make up of the towns and villages. I will investigate the further volumes of the history as I enjoyed the writing style of the author.

  18. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Ackroyd is always a funny one. What I like about his work is the way he moves between very large historical sweeps and patterns down to very close detail. (I am also a total sucker for pyschogeography. Sssh, don't tell me it's nonsense.) This was really interesting on settlement patterns and waves of migration and population expansion and contraction, and had a good focus on ordinary people. Intensely readable, too. Ackroyd is always a funny one. What I like about his work is the way he moves between very large historical sweeps and patterns down to very close detail. (I am also a total sucker for pyschogeography. Sssh, don't tell me it's nonsense.) This was really interesting on settlement patterns and waves of migration and population expansion and contraction, and had a good focus on ordinary people. Intensely readable, too.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    general description of the history of England from prehistoric times to the advent of the Tudors

  20. 5 out of 5

    Job van der Kooij

    I was looking for a crash course history book, an outline of the history of England. Ackroyd has written exactly that kind of book: crash course history. In the process however he makes English history sound like a dull succession of kings and bishops. Every now and then there's a brief 'intermission' in which Ackroyd describes the more ordinary parts of English life: roads, livestock, position of women, money etc. But these separate mini-chapters actually do damage to the idea that the English I was looking for a crash course history book, an outline of the history of England. Ackroyd has written exactly that kind of book: crash course history. In the process however he makes English history sound like a dull succession of kings and bishops. Every now and then there's a brief 'intermission' in which Ackroyd describes the more ordinary parts of English life: roads, livestock, position of women, money etc. But these separate mini-chapters actually do damage to the idea that the English society can be described as a whole (which Ackroyd, according to his introduction, is trying to do) The structure of the book gives the false impression that there is a huge gap between the English aristocratic top layer and the lower echelons of English society. I get the impression that Ackroyd tries very hard to show that the English history is a history of all its inhabitants, but utterly fails. He approaches the course of events like a chronicle rather than a history. Simon Schama's A History of Britain BBC documentary series first piqued my interest in British history. Knowing Ackroyd's reputation I assumed this would be a improvement on Schama's interesting but slightly out of date notions. Unfortunately Ackroyd's Foundation merely showed Schama's superb eye for suprising historical parallels and his inspired relay of events. Moreover, Ackroyd, in my opinion, presents the English history a bit too much as a continuum towards the modern and early modern period. Time and again he stresses the continuity of old Anglo-Saxon habits or old-English customs, which have survived to this day. Of course there's a case to be made for many of these examples, but Ackroyd makes this point so often, it gives the impression that essentially nothing has changed. Anglo-Saxon invasions, Danish invasions, Viking invasions, Norman invasions, nothing could tarnish the ancient English culture. It's an English history, for the English. This emphasis on continuity is essentially ahistorical. That said, I'd recommend this book to anyone unacquainted with British history. It gives a brief outline of 3000 years of the dynastic struggles, wars and economic change. It lacks a certain inspiration, but it gives the reader a sense of "interconnectedness" throughout the history of England.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A good overview of Britain's history that starts with the earliest evidence of human habitation on the island and moves chronologically through a vast amount of time. It covers the Neolithic Age, the Iron Age, Roman Britannia, Anglo-Saxon England, the Viking Age, the Norman Invasion, and the events during the succession of rulers during the Normans, Plantagenets, Lancastrians, Yorkists, and the beginning of the Tudors. It is a staggering amount to cover in one book, but the author does a good jo A good overview of Britain's history that starts with the earliest evidence of human habitation on the island and moves chronologically through a vast amount of time. It covers the Neolithic Age, the Iron Age, Roman Britannia, Anglo-Saxon England, the Viking Age, the Norman Invasion, and the events during the succession of rulers during the Normans, Plantagenets, Lancastrians, Yorkists, and the beginning of the Tudors. It is a staggering amount to cover in one book, but the author does a good job of giving a general overview of each time frame and he always manages to keep the narrative interesting. I decided to read this one immediately after completing a Great Courses Lecture series covering the exact same topic - Jennifer Paxton's The Story of Medieval England. The two books complement each other very well and it was helpful to hear the same things covered in slightly different ways.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Atwell

    This elegantly written and insightful introductory volume of Ackroyd's ( as-yet incomplete ) series, which takes the reader from the island's prehistoric beginnings to the present day, is as much an investigation as a history. Ackroyd's analysis and commentary on every aspect of English life and times including all the big feature attractions - the building of Stonehenge, the coming of the Norsemen, the Norman Conquest, the War of the Roses and the rise of the Tudor dynasty is compelling and won This elegantly written and insightful introductory volume of Ackroyd's ( as-yet incomplete ) series, which takes the reader from the island's prehistoric beginnings to the present day, is as much an investigation as a history. Ackroyd's analysis and commentary on every aspect of English life and times including all the big feature attractions - the building of Stonehenge, the coming of the Norsemen, the Norman Conquest, the War of the Roses and the rise of the Tudor dynasty is compelling and wonderfully readable. No event is too insignificant and no detail too small for his penetrating gaze. Quirky, irresistible stuff - a people's history at its best.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    The author offers thoughtful new insights into age-old discussions of English history. I particularly enjoyed the way the chapters alternate between narratives about the people in power, and descriptions of everyday life. Unfortunately, though, Ackroyd's slapdash style is annoying. Far too often, he tosses together facts and comments without drawing any meaningful connections. I suspect that if this manuscript had been submitted by a less famous author, it never would have been accepted for publi The author offers thoughtful new insights into age-old discussions of English history. I particularly enjoyed the way the chapters alternate between narratives about the people in power, and descriptions of everyday life. Unfortunately, though, Ackroyd's slapdash style is annoying. Far too often, he tosses together facts and comments without drawing any meaningful connections. I suspect that if this manuscript had been submitted by a less famous author, it never would have been accepted for publication.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    Very entertaining, easily read, romp through English history following the royal line.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Whisper19

    This is a wonderful book. Very easy to read and to follow. There are lots of interesting bits of information about the times and the way of life in England. Now I need to read the next volume :) Full review from blog I love reading history books, good ones, at least. There’s nothing better than immersing yourself in another time guided by the masterful pen of a well-informed author. And that is what you get with this book. I saw that many people online commented on his “rushing through” the middle a This is a wonderful book. Very easy to read and to follow. There are lots of interesting bits of information about the times and the way of life in England. Now I need to read the next volume :) Full review from blog I love reading history books, good ones, at least. There’s nothing better than immersing yourself in another time guided by the masterful pen of a well-informed author. And that is what you get with this book. I saw that many people online commented on his “rushing through” the middle ages, but I disagree. Ackroyd offers a very interesting overview of the history of England from the prehistory to the Tudors. The book is well written, entertaining, informative, and very easy to follow. It also forces you at times to reach for the dictionary, as a good history book should. Before I present some of the amazing titbits you can find in this book, I have to make a pit stop at criticism lane. The book is not perfect. There are some things that could have been done better. The first being that he was very brief in his description of the prehistoric societies and early history of England, and the other being that there is no list of kings/rulers. The first one is perhaps understandable, because prehistory/early history is not the same as history. But the second one is easy to fix. Having a list of rulers at the back of the book, or even better a few family trees, would really help the reader keep track of all the Edwards, Henrys and Richards. Not to mention Athelstans 😊 Now for the good parts. If you choose to read this book, get ready to find out - Why there are roosters on the weathervanes on roofs - What “live money” is - What the origin of “peeping Tom” is - Why there are flower baskets hanging from the wall above the entrance of pubs - That the definition of “hamlet” includes a cat - Why the heir to the British throne has the title Prince of Wales - The answer to the riddle: “I grow very erect, tall in a bed, and bring a tear to a maiden’s eye. What am I?” And most importantly, you’ll find out who gets the tongue of a beached whale near Chichester. The answer might surprise you 😉 Peter Ackroyd states that “writing history is often another way of defining chaos” and that “human history […] is the sum total of accident and unintended consequence.” This book really presents that, and reader (this one at least) enjoyed every page of it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    For someone like myself, who's knowledge of this time is limited, this was a good book for me. I don't consider it to be a thorough going over of all of the "foundations", but more of an overview. That perhaps is not what Mr Ackroyd thinks, but he is writing this as someone who has a wealth of knowledge, and possibly thinks you do as well. I consider it an overview because the focus is on the leaders, the kings, and possibly rightfully so. There is of course mention of the notable Lords and such For someone like myself, who's knowledge of this time is limited, this was a good book for me. I don't consider it to be a thorough going over of all of the "foundations", but more of an overview. That perhaps is not what Mr Ackroyd thinks, but he is writing this as someone who has a wealth of knowledge, and possibly thinks you do as well. I consider it an overview because the focus is on the leaders, the kings, and possibly rightfully so. There is of course mention of the notable Lords and such, but I felt that sometimes something was missing for me. I kept having to revert to an online family tree to keep on track as to where some people fitted in or came from. I put this down to my lack of knowledge and not a fault of the author, and what I wanted from the book. Having said that I'm assuming if you start going off on different tangents about different characters then this becomes something much bigger. Either way it has given me a better understanding of who was who, and how they got there. There were other little chapters of other goings on in the country, regarding education and agricultural life, crime and punishment and I enjoyed those insights. I liked it and look forward to reading the Tudors.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tobias

    While Ackroyd writes well and this book filled some gaping gaps in my knowledge of English medieaval history, I found it slightly lacking as a social history. There was too much focus on the power politics of the English plantagenet kings and not enough on the rest of society at large. Each individual story of the Kings is interesting in its own right and filled some gaps in my knowledge. But there are rather a lot of them and the book begins to feel like a procession of one damm King after anot While Ackroyd writes well and this book filled some gaping gaps in my knowledge of English medieaval history, I found it slightly lacking as a social history. There was too much focus on the power politics of the English plantagenet kings and not enough on the rest of society at large. Each individual story of the Kings is interesting in its own right and filled some gaps in my knowledge. But there are rather a lot of them and the book begins to feel like a procession of one damm King after another all of them fairly unpleasant and thuggish. Ackroyd struggles to find a unifying thread through the whole history other than the "nothing really changes" since Stonehenge viewpoint and that development of Parliament in the medieval period happens very slowly and that there is a element of chaos in English history where much is decided by accident and that the course of history influenced by winning battles, for instance, involves a large degree of luck and chance. I'm sure that this last insight is true but the natural desire we have of historians is to find a pattern and a story that links up the years.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Re-read 2018 I picked this one up at the end of October as a fun read. It's still an enjoyable read the second time around. I have always enjoyed this author's history books. This book was no different, I really enjoyed reading it. Though, at times it felt like he was trying to rush through chapters and eras, so he could get to everything he wanted in this book. It starts in Stone Age England and ends with the rule of the Tudors. It's the first book in a possible series, I just hope with the seco Re-read 2018 I picked this one up at the end of October as a fun read. It's still an enjoyable read the second time around. I have always enjoyed this author's history books. This book was no different, I really enjoyed reading it. Though, at times it felt like he was trying to rush through chapters and eras, so he could get to everything he wanted in this book. It starts in Stone Age England and ends with the rule of the Tudors. It's the first book in a possible series, I just hope with the second book he can show more of the life of the common man and not just the Elite, and the Royals. Even though I had a few issues with the book, I really enjoyed it and was impressed with how much he was able to fit in.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Well written, easy to understand and such an interesting read Even being English, the vastness of the country's history makes it all too overwhelming and confusing to make all the connections between the multitude of names I've recognised since childhood. I remember switching off in history lessons at school -it was all just too much. Thank you Peter Ackroyd, you've helped me to finally see the whole picture and a more realistic one at that. Well written, easy to understand and such an interesting read Even being English, the vastness of the country's history makes it all too overwhelming and confusing to make all the connections between the multitude of names I've recognised since childhood. I remember switching off in history lessons at school -it was all just too much. Thank you Peter Ackroyd, you've helped me to finally see the whole picture and a more realistic one at that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ozana Ozzy

    I always loved history and this is one detail book on subject of Tudors, ancient house with lot's of romantisiesd fiction books,TV Shows and movies, but in reality very fearful and cruel era. I always loved history and this is one detail book on subject of Tudors, ancient house with lot's of romantisiesd fiction books,TV Shows and movies, but in reality very fearful and cruel era.

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