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A History of Britain 2: The British Wars 1603-1776

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9780754084785: A History of Britain 2: The British Wars 1603-1776
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To understand what Britain has become it is necessary to know what it has been. The second volume in this history takes the story of Britain from the Civil War to the Enlightenment. Each chapter focuses on a major theme.

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The second volume of Simon Schama's BBC History of Britain: The British Wars, 1603-1776 is a more serious affair than the first. A History of Britain Vol I was free-range history: a fresh and at times iconoclastic survey of more than 1,500 years of the nation's story. Now Schama is more penned in, covering just a century and a half in 500 pages, and mixing it with the cockiest and wisest historians in the farmyard.

The ingredients that made the first volume such a spectacular success are still there: highly visual prose, fine informative illustrations, insightful thumbnail sketches of all the leading players and above all a clever interplay between what happened and, often of more significance, what people thought had happened. But this time around Schama also has to weave his way through the complex narrative of the civil war and Protectorate, restoration, "glorious" revolution and establishment of empire. He does so with clarity and wit, but also with admirable sympathy for all the conflicting protagonists--the austere Stuarts, the reluctant hero Cromwell, the cunning Walpole, the gouty Pitt and the thousands of Scots, Irish and American, and the millions of Africans and Indians whose destinies shaped and were shaped by the forging of the British state in these years.

Predictably, some history gets left out. Apart from a colourful depiction of Hogarthian London, social and economic history get short shrift, leading Schama, for instance, to imply that the British push to empire was largely the result of a popular addiction to narcotics: tea, coffee and opium. However, Schama's larger story--how a nation that was created out of a titanic struggle for liberty then went on to impose dubious dominion on much of the rest of the world--is told in a masterly and compelling manner. --Miles Taylor

Review:

In [Schama's] typically readable style he moves the story on, from the accession of James I to the death of Clive of India, at a cracking pace. -- The Literary Review

Simon Schama is a historian of remarkable gifts and achievements. -- The Spectator

[Schama] remains a master storyteller, admirably and sceptically well read in current revisionist histories... -- The Times

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Schama, Simon
Published by Chivers Audio Books (2004)
ISBN 10: 0754084787 ISBN 13: 9780754084785
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