52 Good Books

Book Review 31 – The Illustrated Story of England by Christopher Hibbert

This week I indulged my inner history nerd. The fascination with all things long past is actually quite new to me. I’m not sure where it came from, but I find myself nonetheless obsessed with Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Norman invaders and Tudors. So what better place to soak up the history of our little island than with this book?

The Illustrated Story of England is a neat little book that takes you through from tribal Celtic times right up to Brexit and today. Let’s be clear, stuffing 4000 years of history into a couple of hundred pages inevitably means that things get covered briefly. The Romans appear to pop in for a cup of tea, Charles I loses his head and that’s the end of it, there’s no time for swan songs here.

This book made me realise a few things. For one being a prince or princess isn’t really all its cracked up to be. For many centuries being the offspring of a monarch was a pernicious state of affairs. It wasn’t just Richard III who was prepared to kill for the throne. Other people who held an interest in seeing a certain person make their way to the top would be willing to wage war against or murder someone they didn’t want to see crowned.

Then at the other echelon of society, life was spectacularly shitty for ordinary people for a very very long time. It was only in the nineteenth century that people started thinking more altruistically and situations began, very slowly, to improve for the lower classes, for child labourers, for slaves and for women.

For anyone that has an interest in learning about the history of this country, particularly with a focus on monarchs, this is a great opportunity to thrash your way through the list of kings and queens that have ruled these isles. So come and meet the ancestors of our queen, the good, the bad and the ones who put lead based white paint on their faces so that you most certainly would not call them “ugly”.

Come back next week and check out my review of ‘Raiders from the North (Empire of the Moghul) by Alex Rutherford.


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