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The Isles: A History

by Norman Davies

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9571116,485 (3.84)20
The bestselling and controversial new history of the 'British Isles', including Ireland from the author of Europe: A History. Emphasizing our long-standing European connections and positing a possible break-up of the United Kingdom, this is agenda-setting work is destined to become a classic. 'If ever a history book were a tract for the times, it is The Isles: A History ... a masterwork.' Roy Porter, The Times 'Davies is among the few living professional historians who write English with vitality, sparkle, economy and humour. The pages fly by, not only because the pace is well judged but also because the surprises keep coming.' Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Sunday Times 'A book which really will change the way we think about our past . marvellously rich and stimulating' Noel Malcolm, Evening Standard 'A historiographical milestone.' Niall Ferguson, Sunday Times 'The full shocking force of this book can only be appreciated by reading it.' Andrew Marr, Observer 'It is too soon to tell if [Norman Davies] will become the Macaulay or Trevelyan of our day: that depends on the reading public. He has certainly made a good try. This is narrative history on the grand scale - compulsively readable, intellectually challenging and emotionally exhilirating.' David Marquand, Literary Review… (more)
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» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This book was a strange read in 2020.
Davies spends a fair amount of time lambasting other historians in the book, which both makes you wonder if it could have been about a third shorter, but also why he's right and they're all wrong - although I do have a lot of sympathy for many of his arguments.
He does give a lot of fascinating insights into a huge number of generally under-represented areas, at least in my relatively narrow sight and that's laudable but he also goes digging into some areas where a much more superficial survey would have sufficed and it's hard to know why he's dug so deep - it's almost like he's just found something interesting and gone for it, so maybe some judicial editing wouldn't have gone amiss.
The weird bit is reading his views on modern Europe and our place in it immediately after we've left the EU, all very strange no matter your views on the matter.
Anyway, a book worth reading, but you might find you can skip the odd bit or two. ( )
  expatscot | Mar 17, 2020 |
Guto Rhys:
Largely confused and confusing
  kgreply | Aug 6, 2018 |
Bloody bloody, that. ( )
1 vote nog | Apr 1, 2018 |
Superlative doorstopper of a history of the British Isles & Ireland with a focus on the difference between English history & the history of The Isles.
Read Samoa Oct 2003 ( )
  mbmackay | Nov 28, 2015 |
I got this book cheaply (10 US dollars at a Half Price bookstore-list price was 19.99 pounds which is about 30 US dollars) without any idea of how good it was. I had no significant knowledge of the history of Britian or the Isles but hoped to learn. As I have read this book I have learned a significant amount but unfortunately for me this is a history book to "correct" what one has wrongly already learned-ie that which I had not learned. I am sure I missed a lot of what he was saying. So it is not a particularly good introduction to the topic if you have a week "history of britian" background such as I.

It was however very engaging and entertaining and had to be as long as it is. As a survey for that long it certainly leaves out a lot. It bills itself as a survey of the Isles, but it certainly seemed Ireland, the Welsh and Scotland could have been covered more. This is a secular history but religion is important and covered to some degree but I would have been interested in more about William Wilberforce and the abolition movement as well as Methodism and its roots.

Recommend-for those with a background of history of England/Great Britain or who want a broad overview. One point he nicely makes is that historians have become so focused and have such narrow fields of study that no one can look at a broad picture. It is important to study the trees in the forest, but it is important to study the forest as well.
While this book can be read in sections of time, the sections overlap and tie into each other.
Not recommended for a quick read or the faint of heart. ( )
1 vote vanjr | Oct 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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To the memory of

RICHARD SAMSON DAVIES

(1863-1939)

English by birth, Welsh by conviction,
Lancastrian by choice, British by chance
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To write a comprehensive history of one's own country is a forbidding task.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The bestselling and controversial new history of the 'British Isles', including Ireland from the author of Europe: A History. Emphasizing our long-standing European connections and positing a possible break-up of the United Kingdom, this is agenda-setting work is destined to become a classic. 'If ever a history book were a tract for the times, it is The Isles: A History ... a masterwork.' Roy Porter, The Times 'Davies is among the few living professional historians who write English with vitality, sparkle, economy and humour. The pages fly by, not only because the pace is well judged but also because the surprises keep coming.' Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Sunday Times 'A book which really will change the way we think about our past . marvellously rich and stimulating' Noel Malcolm, Evening Standard 'A historiographical milestone.' Niall Ferguson, Sunday Times 'The full shocking force of this book can only be appreciated by reading it.' Andrew Marr, Observer 'It is too soon to tell if [Norman Davies] will become the Macaulay or Trevelyan of our day: that depends on the reading public. He has certainly made a good try. This is narrative history on the grand scale - compulsively readable, intellectually challenging and emotionally exhilirating.' David Marquand, Literary Review

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