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The Isles: A History
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195134427, Hardcover)When did British history begin, and where will it all end? These controversial issues are tackled head-on in Norman Davies's polemical and persuasive survey of the four countries that in modern times have become known as the British Isles. Covering 10 millennia in just over a thousand pages, from "Cheddar Man" to New Labour, Davies shows how relatively recently the English state was formed--no earlier than Tudor times--and shows, too, how a sense of Britishness emerged only with the coming of empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. A historian of Poland, and the author of an acclaimed history of Europe, Davies is especially sensitive to the complex mixing and merging of tribes and races, languages and traditions, conquerors and colonized that has gone on throughout British history and that in many ways makes "our island story" much more like that of the rest of Europe than we usually think. Many myths of the English are dispelled in this book, and many historians are taken to task for their blinkered Anglocentrism. But the book ends on an upbeat note, with Davies welcoming Britain's return to the heart of Europe at the dawn of the new millennium. --Miles Taylor, Amazon.co.uk
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:23 -0400)
Narrative history that takes a new perspective on the development of Britain and Ireland, looking at them not as self-contained islands, but as an inextricable part of Europe. At every stage, The Isles connects offshore development with parallel events on the Continent. This history begins with the Celtic Supremacy in the last centuries BC, which is presented in the light of a Celtic world stretching all the way from Iberia to Asia Minor. Roman Britain is seen not as a unique phenomenon but as similar to the other frontier regions of the Roman Empire, such as Germany. The Viking Age is viewed not only through the eyes of the invaded but from the standpoint of the invaders themselves--Norse, Danes, and Normans. Plantagenet England is perceived, like the Kingdom of Jerusalem, as an extension of medieval France. In the later chapters, Davies follows the growth of the United Kingdom and charts the rise and fall of the main pillars of "Britishness"--the Royal Navy, the Westminster Parliament, the Constitutional Monarchy, the Aristocracy, the Protestant Supremacy, the British Empire, the imperial economy and sterling area, and the English Language. The book ends with the crisis confronting Britain at the turn of the 21st century--the emergence of the European Union. As the elements that make up the historic Britishness dissolve, Davies shows how public confusion is one of the most potent factors in this process of disintegration. As the Republic of Ireland prospers, and power in the United Kingdom is devolved, he predicts that the coming crisis in the British State may well be its last.
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