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Publisher's Summary

In this, the first volume of an epic history of Britain, one of the most popular and celebrated historians of our day brings the birth and growth of a nation to dramatic life with a wealth of compelling stories and vivid detail.

Simon Schama's narrative moves from the early tribes and invasions of the British isles to the Norman Conquest; through the religious wars and turbulence of the Middle Ages to the sovereignties of Henry II, Richard I, and King John; through the outbreak of the Black Death, which destroyed nearly half of Europe's population; through the reign of Edward I and the growth of national identity in Wales and Scotland; to the turbulent religious and dynastic conflicts of the Tudor age, culminating in the glorious reign of Elizabeth I. The theme of change - sometimes gentle and subtle, sometimes shocking and violent - emerges as the narrative's most powerful dynamic change that washes over custom and habit, transforming loyalties and boundaries.

A History of Britain also poses questions that have universal timeless resonance. What makes or breaks a nation? To whom do you give your allegiance and why? Where do the roots of your community lie - in your hearth and home, your village or city, your tribe, your faith? And, finally, what is Britain? One country or many, one culture or several? This is a touchstone for the present that reintroduces you to the past with stunning energy and clarity.

This is Volume 1 of A History of Britain. Don't miss Volume 2.

Don't miss Simon Schama, Clive James, Bernard-Henri Levy, and Anna Deavere Smith talking about art and politics at The New Yorker Festival.
©2000 Simon Schama; (P)2000 BBC Worldwide; Produced in Association with Audio Renaissance, An Imprint of Renaissance Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Nominee for Audio Publishers Association 2001 Audie Award, Audio, Licensed or Distributed

Potent and compelling. (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Dennis
  • Pollock, LA, USA
  • 03-02-03

Accessible to the lay-person.

I found it to be very helpful in understanding the recent history of Britain of which I am more familiar. To an American such as myself, British history as it is taught over here is extremely dull. This book is quite the opposite and has helped me to understand such issues as Ireland, the split from the Catholic Church and the formation of the Anglican Church. As a student of American history and politics, I enjoyed seeing the roots of what is so often taken for granted in our political institutions.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

I wish it were unabridged!

As a U.S. reader, I found this very accessible. I suspect those more familiar with Great Britain and its history would like it even better, particularly many of the geographic references that were lost on me.

I generally steer clear of abridged versions, and this book certainly confirms me in that general rule of thumb, because I was disappointed at several points to realize that we were picking up the story a century or more after the period we had just been discussing. On the other hand, I learned a great deal about what was happening in England before the Battle of Hastings (a period I had previously known almost nothing about) and I really enjoyed the discussions of Tudor England, the main outlines of which were already familiar. Thus, while I remain disappointed that the work is only offered in an abridged format, I recommend it anyway and I do plan to buy all three volumes.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Bound Brook, NJ, USA
  • 08-21-03

Excellent and interesting

The book proved to be very interesting and quite detailed in its telling of early British history. Its focus stays squarely on England (its Kings, politics, and religious conflicts) and does not deviate for a broader view of Europe. The whole series is a must listen to book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 05-14-12

Good overview

British history is very dense, and Schama does a great job of weaving the story together through pertinent events that ultimately unfurl into momentous changes for the country.

Schama is a very good writer, and keeps the audience in mind. This volume is less an exhaustive history than a view into a country at a particular period of time. He stops the clock often to "show" rather than "tell", which makes for a great listening experience.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

false advertising

The sample is the author narrating the introduction. I was very disappointed when a stuffy gent took over the rest of the narration. The content, however, overcomes the boring narration.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Britian As You Never Knew It

This is a captivating book about Early Britian that makes the hours in your car just melt away. The History of Britian is excellently written and read. The only other thing that would have made the book better is if the author himself would have read it--He has a mezmorizing voice that just sucks you right into these events--That said, this book goes far in illustrating the events of early Britian to the reader. (The video series is also great but discusses everything in much less detail.)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

An even handed treatment of British history

I enjoyed this volume a great deal, the book was arranged in chronological order, from Roman Empire right down to the post-colonial era, a great book for people who want a concise history of the United Kingdoms and the British Empire. It showed both the glorious side as well as the dark sides, also you may want to find the Documentry version produced by the BBC.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Written with clarity and zest

Schama is one of my favorite historians. Ordinarily I could not recommend anything abridged, but in his case, I think it works. He packs so much into his works ("Citizens" for instance) that you can easily get overwhelmed. By cutting this book down to size, it becomes easier to digest in an audio format, whereas listening to the thousand page original would be exhausting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Chris
  • LA, CA, USA
  • 11-22-04

West is the best

Schama has given us an exhilarating history of Britain. But the reading of this series, by Timothy West, may well be the finest reading ever recorded.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A triumph, all of the way round

This is an excellent survey of British history. It is read well, organized well, contains interesting content made interesting (good writing), and is sufficiently tantalizing to help the reader identify stories about which he/she would be interested in learning more. A trip to the library is recommended in those cases, since there is plenty written on these subjects.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful