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Great Tales from English History: A Treasury…

Great Tales from English History: A Treasury of True Stories about the… (original 2003; edition 2007)

by Robert Lacey

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4611322,528 (3.98)5
Title:Great Tales from English History: A Treasury of True Stories about the Extraordinary People -- Knights and Knaves, Rebels and Heroes, Queens and Commoners -- Who Made Britain Great
Authors:Robert Lacey
Info:Back Bay Books (2007), Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library

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Great Tales from English History, Volume I by Robert Lacey (2003)


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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
In many ways it is a depressing fact that we put so little value on literature and books in general. Whilst the latest pot boiler/romantic clap trap sells, brand new, for exorbitant amounts; even the best books may be purchased for a pittance from either a car boot sale, or internet retailers. There is one web based emporium that seems to provide books at less than the cost of postage!

The ability to pick up works in this way for so little is a blessing, to me personally but, it does have one draw back. Buying in this manner does not allow for the flick through pre-judgement given to a book which one holds in one's mitt. This is my excuse for recently purchasing this book which, is clearly meant for someone who has seen many fewer summers than I. My excuse for starting to read same is that I am mean. My excuse for finishing same, ...... I don't have one. I simply found it a delight to read.

In a series of little stories, taking the reader from pre-history to the Peasants' Revolt, Mr Lacey provides numerous fascinating snippets (did you know that the word Britain means land of the painted people - from our penchant for wearing woad?)

This book should be a standard text book for school history. It would entertain the youngsters and bring them a sense of history at the same time. I am willing to bet that take up of places in history based subjects upon the curriculum would increase a hundred fold over a few years! Oh, and if your favourite on line seller has a copy of this book for pennies, and you share my historical knowledge of too many summers, buy it anyway! ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Sep 30, 2014 |
Last summer, while staying in a friend's apartment, I happened upon this book. Since I didn't finish it while there, I purchased my own copy of this fun and fascinating read. Okay, I can see you already searching for the phone number of the man with the net to come get me. A history book? Is she mad? Didn't we suffer enough in school? Believe me, I know, but before you make that call, hear me out, because this book has everything your 7th-grade history class lacked: accessibility; fun, bite-sized morsels of info; and nary a pop quiz in sight.

By accessibility, I mean this history of England is nowhere near your hated textbooks of yore. There are no long, drawn-out, boring chapters filled with endless drivel about this battle or that, an endless array of rulers and military men, the signing of yet another great document, or dates up the wazoo. Instead, each 2- to 3-page mini-chapter is a colorful snapshot of a historical person or moment, some well-known and some obscure, but all helping to shape the England of today. For instance, author Robert Lacey begins with a 1-1/2 page vignette about the Cheddar Man, England's oldest complete skeleton found in a cave near Bristol and dating back to 7000 B.C., still the time of hunter-gatherers. Naturally, not much is known about Cheddar Man's life, but one is fascinated by the clues Cheddar Man has left behind -- including the possibility that ancient Brits were cannibals. The next chapter fast forwards to 325 B. C., so while the stories are chronological, this is not your normal, comprehensive, boring history book.

Additionally, the stories Lacey chooses to highlight are tasty little tidbits you've most likely never heard. Do you know who we have to thank for those darned math word problems that have plagued school children for centuries? Any idea who is responsible for modern British spelling conventions? Did you ever learn Florence Nightingale had a Jamaica-born, mixed-race counterpart in Crimea? From what untutored girl did geology and paleontology experts steal knowledge and claim it as their own? All this and SO much more is contained in the pages of this unique take on British history, and it is almost impossible not to be fascinated with these little known historical gems of not only kings and queens, but of the common man, who contributed just as much to history as those whose names we all learned.

The other aspect I admire in this book is that there is no need to read it all at once. In fact, I put it down for months (not because I was bored). Happily, when I picked it back up, it was easy to continue because each chapter is a discrete story which doesn't depend on its predecessors. It is also a book that one can simply pick up, open to any page, and read a quick tale about something interesting. Meaning, this is a keeper in one's library.

And, the English teacher in me knows that Lacey's English composition teacher would be supremely proud of where he ended his history. Where? Exactly where he began -- with Cheddar Man -- but I won't tell you how.

As I read, I had only one moment of disappointment.When describing Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Lacey lists where all the attendees from around the Empire came from -- From Canada they came, from Australia, Africa, India, Borneo, Fiji, Hong Kong. Excuse me, but when are people going to get that Africa is not a country, but a continent of many countries with many diverse cultures that should not be carelessly lumped together?

Okay, enough for that little rant, because otherwise I simply loved this book.
  LitLoversLane | Feb 28, 2014 |
The title is correct: these are great TALES from English history. It doesn't mean you should believe them! The author has, at best, a passing respect for scholarship and a distant acquaintance with fact checking. He takes the position that it doesn't matter, they're still fun. And they are. ( )
  particle_p | Apr 1, 2013 |
Robert Lacey deftly animates each tale; the reader enjoys a wonderful balance of historical facts and circumstances, to lovely insights into the character of people who are idolized yet dehumanized and forgotten. I couldn't put it down! ( )
  kimberly.horning | Jul 25, 2012 |
This is a great introduction for those who know little or nothing about English history. I also loved how the first essay and last essay pulled the entire book together. I can not wait to read the next book in this set! ( )
  bethielouwho | Jan 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031610910X, Hardcover)

With insight, humor and fascinating detail, Lacey brings brilliantly to life the stories that made England--from Ethelred the Unready to Richard the Lionheart, the Venerable Bede to Piers the Ploughman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

There was a time, as recently as nine thousand years ago, when the British Isles were not islands at all. After the bleakness of the successive ice ages, the south-eastern corner of modern England was still linked to Europe by a wide swathe of low-lying marshes. People crossed to and fro, and so did animals - including antelopes and brown bears. We know this because the remains of these creatures were discovered by modern archaeologists in a cave in the Cheddar Gorge near Bristol. Scattered among numerous wild horse bones, the scraps of bear and antelope had made up the larder of 'Cheddar Man', England's oldest complete skeleton, found lying nearby in the cave with his legs curled up under him. According to the radiocarbon dating of his bones, Cheddar Man lived and died around 7150 bc. He was a member of one of the small bands of hunter-gatherers who were then padding their way over the soft forest floors of north-western Europe. The dry cave was his home base, where mothers and grandmothers reared children, kindling fires for warmth and lighting and for cooking the family dinner. We don't know what language Cheddar Man spoke. But we can deduce that wild horsemeat was his staple food and that he hunted his prey across the grey-green Mendip Hills with traps, clubs and spears tipped with delicately sharpened leaf-shaped flints.… (more)

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