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English History Made Brief, Irreverent, and…
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English History Made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable

by Lacey Baldwin Smith

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The title sums it up. I enjoyed this book. ( )
  KateSavage | Mar 29, 2019 |
"A new polity was being shaped, in which diversity of mind or action was unthinkable..." (54--Henry VIII)

Maids wore their mistress's castoff clothing, which led to frequent and embarrassing confusion between the two, a favorite theme of c18 drama. (64)

The destruction of the Stuart monarchy was costly beyond imagination. Of the King's three kingdoms, England lost 3.7% of its population; Scotland 6%; Ireland 41% (616K); the financial price was, according to one authority, 'not exceeded until the world wars of the twentieth century.'" (78) [skipped Wales. And also where's the source on this and the beginning/end points?]

one slave could produce nearly a ton of sugar in his lifetime (93)

In 1700, 250K Brits, or one out of 17 of the King's subjects lived overseas in the American mainland colonies. Three generations later, that population had swollen to 1.7 million, or one in every four, and their economic value as a market for British good and a source of supplies for raw materials had risen from 532K pounds to 2.8million pounds annually.

population increased 7.7 million to 10.5 million in the second half of the eighteenth century, and doubled 1800-1850

'the nation is only the aggregate of individual conditions, and civilization itself is but a question of personal improvement'

"Although willing in the name of humanitarian and religious indignation to make certain social concessions--Catholic emancipation, the depoliticizing of royal patronage, and the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire with, of course, due respect for property, to the tune of 20 million pounds (more than the nation's annual military budget) to compensate slave owners--the government stubbornly held out against any political change. Only in 1832... (120)
  precaritas | Mar 18, 2017 |
What a witty and impressive book. The idea of distilling English history into one, small entertaining volume is genius, and Smith delivers everything she promises. My favorite part of her style is the ability to condense huge concepts into single, powerful sentences.

Her astute analysis of Britain's gradual fall from supremecy in Victorian and Georgian times was, for me, rather thought provoking, and her analysis of the years after WW2 even moreso.

The last quarter of the book is a section she aptly labels The Royal Soap Opera. In it she recounts the finny, morbid, creepy, and at times unbelievable events of each monarch's reign.

Whether you are a committed Anglophile or just looking for an entertaining read, this book delivers in spades. ( )
2 vote Oreillynsf | Jun 16, 2010 |
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TO The powers behind the shaky throne: as always my wife Jean, and nowadays my three children MacAllister, Dennison and Katherine Chandler
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No people have engendered quite so much critical acclaim or earned such unrestrained and bitter censure as the British.
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Here at last is a history of England that is designed to entertain as well as inform and that will delight the armchair traveler, the tourist or just about anyone interested in history. No people have engendered quite so much acclaim or earned so much censure as the English: extolled as the Athenians of modern times, yet hammered for their self-satisfaction and hypocrisy. But their history has been a spectacular one. The guiding principle of this book's heretical approach is that "history is not everything that happened, but what is worth remembering about the past.. . .". Thus, its chapters deal mainly with "Memorable History" in blocks of time over the centuries. The final chapter "The Royal Soap Opera," recounts the achievements, personalities and idiocies of the royal family since the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066. Spiced with dozens of hilarious cartoons from Punch and other publications, English History will be a welcome and amusing tour of a land that has always fascinated Anglophiles and Anglophobes alike.… (more)

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