Timothy West reads the third and concluding volume of award-winning historian Simon Schama's compelling chronicle of the British Isles.
Here he illuminates the period from 1776 to 2000 through a variety of historical themes, including Victorian advances in technology and industry, women's increasing role in society, and the burgeoning British Empire which promised civilisation and material betterment for all. This volume also looks at key characters from the period, including Wordsworth, Burke, Queen Victoria, Churchill, and Orwell, whilst examining some lesser-known lives, such as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman doctor, and Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse in the Crimea. Finally, Schama reflects on the overwhelming presence of the past in the 20th century, and the struggle of our leaders to find a way of making a different national future.
©2012 Simon Schama (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
I like to read but listening is better.
The final volume in the history is as good as the first two. By the time the listener is on the 3rd volume Thorne's voice is like that of an old friend. Actually, when I read the blurb about the 3rd volume it mentioned that the narrator was different and I was taken aback because at that point it would have been weird to switch voices. However, the blurb was thankfully inaccurate. The histories of Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill are two of the highlights of the final volume. The history of British rule in India is also fascinating. I was a bit disappointed with the last bit of the book because post-WWII Britain is basically just skimmed over. The author had forewarned us that this would be the case but I had held out hope that he was exaggerating. Alas, Schama was telling the truth. I would have liked to hear more about how Britain dealt with Ireland becoming independent and how it handled the breakup of its empire. I also wanted to hear a more detailed account of Thatcher's history. My biggest disappointment concerned the history of the crown. I was looking forward to learning what it was that changed the crown from being of chief importance to being a ceremonial relic. I wanted to know how things changed so much in so little time but it was never explained or really even touched on. Queen Victoria's reign ended in the early 1900's and by all accounts she was the supreme ruler of Britain and extremely important (the period is named after her after all). In my lifetime Queen Elizabeth II has been irrelevant to all besides tabloid magazine editors. How did that happen? I never learned this. I don't recall King Edward VIII giving up the crown in order to marry a divorced woman being mentioned at all, and if it was it wasn't discussed at any length. I would have liked to hear more about the 2nd half of the 20th century.
"Excellent and thought-provoking perspective"
Recounting history on such a large scale is always a matter of selection. I was satisfied by Schama's decision to focus on Churchill and Orwell to demonstrate the politics and dynamics of 20th century British history.
The leaps in time throughout the book were sometimes disorienting and this would probably not be the case in a printed work. However that small inconvenience was minor against the wealth of information and thought provided by the history. Certainly it gives me a context for further reading of the subject.
"Great & precise history of Britain"
The account of the British history is a little brief from 3000 to the Romans but that is to be expected with the lack of evidence for this period. Schama writes brilliantly extracting the facts and important events and laying them out in a clear precise way. He weaves his way through legend and presents the facts as they are known today. The history has helped me to piece together and understand the lineage of British history to the beginning of the sixteen hundreds in a compelling and entertaining way and I am very grateful. Enjoy a well deserved 5 star audiobook.
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