Robert Tombs s momentous The English and Their History is both a startlingly fresh and a uniquely inclusive account of the people who have a claim to be the oldest nation in the world. The English first came into existence as an idea, before they had a common ruler and before the country they lived in even had a name. Read more...
Robert Tombs s momentous The English and Their History is both a startlingly fresh and a uniquely inclusive account of the people who have a claim to be the oldest nation in the world. The English first came into existence as an idea, before they had a common ruler and before the country they lived in even had a name. They have lasted as a recognizable entity ever since, and their defining national institutions can be traced back to the earliest years of their history.
The English have come a long way from those first precarious days of invasion and conquest, with many spectacular changes of fortune. Their political, economic and cultural contacts have left traces for good and ill across the world. This book describes their history and its meanings from their beginnings in the monasteries of Northumbria and the wetlands of Wessex to the cosmopolitan energy of today s England. Robert Tombs draws out important threads running through the story, including participatory government, language, law, religion, the land and the sea, and ever-changing relations with other peoples. Not the least of these connections are the ways the English have understood their own history, have argued about it, forgotten it and yet been shaped by it. These diverse and sometimes conflicting understandings are an inherent part of their identity.
Rather to their surprise, as ties within the United Kingdom loosen, the English are suddenly embarking on a new chapter. The English and Their History, the first single-volume work on this scale for more than half a century, and which incorporates a wealth of recent scholarship, presents a challenging modern account of this immense and continuing story, bringing out the strength and resilience of English government, the deep patterns of division and also the persistent capacity to come together in the face of danger."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-09-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Proceeding from prehistoric times to the present at a commanding pace, Tombs (coauthor, with Isabelle Tombs, of That Sweet Enemy), an expert at the University of Cambridge on Franco-British relations, focuses on England and the English while paying due regard to their Irish, Scot, and Welsh compatriots. No one will confuse this work with the celebrated, sweeping multivolume histories of Macauley, Trevelyan, and Churchill, but this is nevertheless a brilliant distillation of a vast tale and arguably the finest one-volume history of any nation and people ever written. Rare is the historian who can maintain balance amid the interpretive snares posed by such a large subject poses, especially while making memory and its creation an inherent part of the story. But Tombs succeeds, all the while clearly stating the bases for his judicious assessments. His lively coverage of social, cultural, and political history is dazzling, while his compressed reviews of such complicated matters as the Civil War of the 1640s, Victorianism, and English decline may be unsurpassable. Everyone from King Arthur to the Hobbit makes an appearance. Its hard to identify a source Tombs hasnt consulted or an apt quotation hes neglected to slip in. Comprehensive, authoritative, and readable to a fault, this book should be on the shelves of everyone interested in its subject. Maps and illus. (Nov.)