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A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins

A Short History of England (edition 2012)

by Simon Jenkins

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1127107,804 (3.6)15
Title:A Short History of England
Authors:Simon Jenkins
Info:Profile Books (2012), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:History, England

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A Short History of England: The Glorious Story of a Rowdy Nation by Simon Jenkins



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
In the final summary Jenkins writes "The message of history is that nations evolve most successfully when any change, social, economic or political, surges up from below". This appraisal may be opportune, but the below that effected such change for England is left in the shadows in this work for the benefit of the history, sometimes the gossip, of the prominent historical figures. In spite of this, the book was an enjoyable read for me and provided motivation for a more in-depth approach to English history. ( )
  alv | Mar 30, 2014 |
Very readable, short primer on English history. The book is heavily weighted towards modern history- I would have prefered slightly more on pre-15th century history. ( )
  lewissmith4 | Jul 15, 2013 |
A very brief and chatty history of England (not Great Britain, so no Scotland, Ireland, or Wales). Informational, yet doesn't bog you down with dates. Focus was on politics, not monarchy, so after William III the book discusses Parliament and the Prime Ministers with occasional mentions of a monarch. Also, I would have loved some maps, especially in the early centuries and as a non-Brit. ( )
  Bodagirl | Feb 28, 2013 |
An excellent brief history of England. Jenkins does not offer any startlingly new interpretation of English history but he does write with his customary lucidity, and uses his journalistic experience to ensure that his story is always engaging.
I was particularly impressed with his concise and clear recounting of both the Wars of the Roses and then the English Civil War - he recounts both these campaigns with great clarity, explaining the respective interests and motivations with great verve. He is also very strong on the political vacillations of Churchill's career, and on the whole pantheon of nineteenth century political history.
All in all a verye njoyable and informative book. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Oct 31, 2012 |
The history of modern democracy, a government that rules by consent of the citizens, can be traced back to the period when the English nation was forming.

England's origins lie in the Dark Ages, 5th - 6th century, when Germanic tribes, Angles and Saxons, settled on the eastern shores. They gave England it's name. It derived from "Anglii", referring to the angle of the coast between Germany and Denmark from where the tribes departed. (On the other hand Saxons conferred their name to Essex). They pushed indigenous population of Britons towards Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Some migrated across the Channel into an area of northern France, which since then carries the name of Brittany, and the language Breton was similar to Welsh.

Saxons were people of lowland, accustomed to fight and farm in the great plains of northern Europe, their loyalty was to family, settlement and clan. A communal hall stood at the center of each settlement where free farmers would swear allegiance to their chiefs. Military service was owed in return of the defense of the subjects' live and land.

The tension between monarch and territorial ruler determined the dynamic of medieval England. In a period of about 700 years, marked by progress and regress, revolution and counter revolution, the modern democracy grew to its present form.

Chronicle of 10 most important moments of England's evolution to democracy:

1170, Henry II: Trial by jury was introduced, from which emerged the concept of "common law", it reintroduced the Saxon concept of rights based on precedent. He attempted and failed to establish secular rule over the Roman church in England.

1215, John: A weak king under duress conceded a list of 61 rights to his subjects. From this weakness of central power the Magna Carta was born.

1265, Henry II: Establishment of a proto-parliament, as demanded by the English barons. England is ready for its House of Lords but not yet for the House of Commons.

1536: An example of opportunistic social change was an act of Henry VIII who expropriated land from monasteries. The land was then sold to a growing merchant class. Landed status, previously confined to the nobleman, spread to people of means, regardless of pedigree.

1628 (Charles I): Petition of Right: it told the king he could not imprison without trial, or tax without the will of the Commons, or support a standing army. The petition served as the foundation stone of all later declarations of civil rights, including that of American independence.

1637 (Charles I): The Long Parliament, lasted for 20 years. Its composition reflected the crucial shift in wealth that had taken place in provincial England and Wales under the Tudors, from medieval church and territorial magnates to an emerging middle class of smaller land owners, city burgesses, and the professions.

1642 (Charles I): The briefly militant English revolution was by the king against parliament not, as popularly supposed, the other way around.

1689 (William of Orange): Bill of Rights, re-enacting freedoms previously asserted by Magna Carta and the Petition of Rights. Parliament now claimed the right to levy taxes, raise an army, and wage wars. Judges were to be independent.

1714 (Anne): The death of Anne marked the end of Stuarts era. With George's accession, England's monarchy lost its significance in England's history. Kings moved from center stage, and gave way to party politicians.

1832 (William IV): The great Reform Act abolished rotten boroughs and brought in 125 new seats in their place. The franchise rose by an estimated 60%. Though still based on property, was not secret and was confined to men. For the first time since the English Civil War a new distribution of power was established in Britain.

England, being on an island, was relatively sheltered from incursions. English nation matured earlier that others on the continent, the evolution to democracy progressed with relative little bloodshed. While in other nations military conflicts and the need for taxes lead to absolute monarchies, the wars with France required English monarchs to frequently seek consent.

The book is not commenting in sufficient details on the contemporary role of The House of Lords and the need for further constitutional reform. It omits to mention that until recently England lacked a separate Supreme Court but relied on The House of Lords instead. I don't know if maps were deliberately omitted, on occasion I had to consult Wikipedia to find out what was where.

Print quality (first edition, hard cover) is outstanding. It is very rewarding to hold and leaf through the book.

Simon Jenkins is a columnist at The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/simonjenkins ( )
  port22 | Jul 25, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A broad, accessible history for those readers not well versed in English history.
added by Christa_Josh | editKirkus Reviews (Nov 15, 2011)
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I have roamed England all my life.
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From the Battle of Catterick (AD 598) to the premiership of Tony Blair, one of Britain's most respected journalists, Simon Jenkins, weaves together a strong narrative with all the most important and interesting dates in a book that characteristically is as stylish as it is authoritative.… (more)

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