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I really enjoy European History and found this book to be very interesting. From the perspective that we have today looking back more than 6 centuries, you can see the seeds of modern day government, religion, architecture, economics and formal education in their earliest stages. Celtic, Roman, Germanic Saxon, and Viking (Dane) / Norman cultures all played significant roles in shaping the English people and ultimately their Colonies as well. The perception of Nation states in this time period is somewhat overstated, as ruling families tended to outweigh national associations of the general populations. For example, for nearly 200 years English Kings spoke French, while the population spoke old English. And the royal families intermarrying created numerous instances where the King of England or France was pressing a claim to also be the King of the other country as well. The court intrigues and the quests for power were absolutely brutal - creating a state of perpetual warfare which the English ultimately mastered in the middle ages. Cyril Robinson writes from the perspective of being an Englishmen, frequently referring in the book to "us" or "we" - yet I found the subject matter to have been very even handed - he pointed out the good, the bad and the ugly. Charlton Griffin is the premier narrator for this genre and he once again delivers an outstanding narration in this one. If you enjoy English History I would recommend this book, and also "the Plantagenet's- the Warrior Kings" by Dan Jones and "the Birth of Britain - a History of the English speaking peoples" by Winston Churchill.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Fascinating, enjoyable, informative. Not a dull moment in the book. Really enjoyed the narration. I completed the whole book in three days, most of it on two 4-hour driving trips. If I had 3 more such trips to take, I would readily take up the remaining three volumes.
All history is interpretive and selective, and this work is of course no exception. Robinson is straightforward and clear with his interpretation. Thus even if you don't want to go along with him at times, it's clear enough where he's taking you. I found it unusual in a refreshing way how he acknowledges his own interest in the history, with "us" and "our" references in place of feigned abstraction—small cracks in the historian's necessary illusion of unperturbed objectivity.
That's not to say that his interpretation is strident or heavy handed. He comes across as sincere and giving his best effort at objectivity. The characters and the story line are robust and three-dimensional for the most part. He paints with bright and dark colors alike, whether people, places, countries, times, etc. But the story is palpably told by a human, not an impersonal gatherer of facts. And more than that, he is an Englishman telling the story of England; and he doesn't pretend not to be aware of that. In not a few places, I could "hear" the twinkle in his eye in a certain turn of phrase or well-placed observation.
His selection of material seems masterful as far as I'm able to judge. The narrative is coherent and fluid, and he has a particular knack for focusing and clarifying the salient features of the story in the transitions between chapters.
The humor, human focus, and general tenor of his writing, as well as his general approach to history, remind me of Gibbon—a similitude that I hazard to guess with no objective basis was not entirely unintentional.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful