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Great Tales from English History (Book 2): Joan of Arc, the Princes in the Tower, Bloody Mary, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Isaac Newton, and More Hardcover – June 2, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed historian Lacey's second volume on English history opens in 1348, the year of the Black Plague, which wiped out half of England's five million people, and proceeds through the astonishing scientific discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton in 1687. Along the way, we meet characters as diverse as Chaucer, Richard II, Henry IV, William Caxton, Guy Fawkes, Richard Whittington, Lady Jane Grey and Titus Oates. In lively vignettes, Lacey (The Year 1000; Majesty) also regales us with such events as the Puritan civil war, the London fire of 1666 and Sir Walter Raleigh's voyages to the New World. Political and religious dissent dominate these tales. Lacey captures the humor inherent in the evolution of England's history; thus, he includes the story of the first modern water closet, invented by Queen Elizabeth's godson, Sir John Harrington. In addition, Lacey briefly chronicles the British attraction to the rare and the exotic in the tale of John Tradescant's opening to the public in the 1630s of his collection of artifacts and curiosities—England's "first museum." Lacey's animated prose, energetic storytelling and spirited approach to British history bring the past to life. 51 b&w illus., 2 maps. (June 2)
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About the Author

Robert Lacey is the coauthor of the history classic The Year 1000, and the author of such bestselling books as Majesty, The Kingdom, Ford: The Men and the Machine, Sotheby’s: Bidding for Class, and The Queen Mother’s Century. He lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031610924X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316109246
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The Queen - A Life in Brief.

I have been writing about the Queen now for nearly forty years, and this little book is intended to distil and re-shape what I've learned into one pleasant afternoon's reading - a summary of its predecessors Majesty (1977) and Monarch (2002, Royal in the UK), with further research and thoughts on Elizabeth II in the year of her Diamond Jubilee.

'Lege feliciter', as the Venerable Bede used to say - May you read happily!

- Robert Lacey, January 2012 - http://robertlacey.com

Robert Lacey is an historian and biographer whose research has taken him from the Middle East ("The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud") to America's Mid-West ("Ford: the Men and the Machine"). "Majesty", his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II, is the definitive study of British monarchy - a subject on which Robert lectures around the world, appearing regularly on ABC's Good Morning America and on CNN's Larry King Live.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. E Pofahl on August 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The author Robert Lacey, writes "Our first historians were storytellers-our best still are.... " In GREAT TALES From ENGLISH HISTORY-Book 2 Lacey demonstrates that he is among the best, both as a historian and a storyteller. Book 2 begins in 1387 with short comments on Geoffrey Chaucer and ends in 1687 with a brief account of Isaac Newton and his principles of the universe.

Religious and political dissent, dominate this period of English history. The text succinctly covers a multitude of interesting English historical characters such as monarchs Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI (the youngest ever King of England), Henry VII, Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, William of Orange, etc. plus other important personage such as Oliver Cromwell, Guy Fawkes, Joan of Arc, etc. Also, the Wars of the Roses, the Puritan Civil War and the 1666 London fire are given brief but interesting coverage. The narration of the reign of Elizabeth I is short but well covered. Her reign saw the creation of England's first stock exchange and her attempt at a tolerant middle way came to define a certain strand of Englishness (that still exists). Lacey concludes that "Elizabeth I, Queen of Shakespeare, Ralegh, Drake and the Armada, had presided over one of the most glorious flowering of English history and culture."

Many of Lacey's comments are intriguing. He notes "Henry V's own patriotism was deeply infused with religion. Dreaming of England and France unified beneath God...." Regarding Oliver Cromwell, the author postulates "....has a claim to being England's most remarkable man." The text notes that, with the exception of Goeffrey of Lynn's book Promptorium Parvulorum, "Medieval books were for grown-ups...." No Harry Potter type books for Medieval children.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Sanity Inspector on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A second collection of vignettes from English history by Robert Lacy, pithy and enjoyable. The drawings and layout give the book a cozy, old-fashioned feel. The stories are presented simply and clearly, and make the book an ideal choice for bedtime reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan Beggerow VINE VOICE on June 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book picks up where Volume One left off. It begins with Chaucer and ends with Sir Isaac Newton.

The style of the first book is continued, as most chapters are 3-4 pages long. A most enjoyable read for any history buff. Books such as these are a wealth of historical tid-bits that are presented in an easily read style. The author continues to shed new light on old tales by including reecent findings on the subjects covered. A must-read for anyone interested in history, particularly English history.

Highly recommended, along with Volume One.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I first discovered Robert Lacey as an author from his book 'The Year 1000'. Interesting, accessible, easy to follow, with a good balance of detail and breadth (always a tricky task when writing a popular history), that book was one of my favourites around the turn of the second millennium. I discovered this book on the shelves of my local library, and have found it equally worthwhile and fun to read.

This book concentrates on the late Middle Ages to the post-Reformation era in English history - in royal terms, the times of the end of the Plantagenets, the Tudors, the Stuarts, the Interregnum and Glorious Revolution (which a history professor of mine once intoned dramatically, 'was neither glorious nor a revolution'). In years, this goes from the late 1300s to the late 1600s.

One of the things that I like a lot about this particular history is that the stories are brief and self-contained while being part of the overall flow of the history of England. They make for good bed-time reading (the longest of the stories is barely seven pages long, in easy print and easy, storytelling language). Many of the characters are already familiar figures even to those who aren't Anglophiles - Joan of Arc, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth the First, Shakespeare, King James and the English Bible. Then there will be figures that are lesser known but just as interesting - the Roundheads and Cavaliers, Rabbi Manasseh, Titus Oates, the Bloody Assizes. These are tales told in a simplified but memorable manner, and could serve for younger and older readers as a stimulus for further reading and investigation about topics brought up in the text.

There are a few maps, royal lineage charts, and woodcut/line art drawings throughout the text.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mummy Ledbetter on July 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very educational and entertaining book. The chapters are short but very descriptive and informative. I suggest buying this book and also the companion - Volume 1.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on April 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Robert Lacey has done something that many writers have failed to do (unfortunately) - he has written history in a fun, accessible, easy to grasp manner. After all, as Lacey points out in his introduction to Volume 1, the "history" and "story" come from the same Latin root word. Essentially, history should be the simple story of how things happened, to the best of the teller's knowledge.

Lacey's power as a storyteller is highlighted here in spades. He narrates his audiobook as well so there is the added bonus of hearing the author add nuance to the reading - essentially reading it the way he meant it to be heard.

The stories are short and entertaining. Only a couple of times in nearly six hours of listening did I find my attention wandering. This is a terrificly fun experience for any history lover. Full of interesting tidbits but not lacking in the larger themes or commentaries.

I am going to look for volume 3 and hopefully he has written or is writing his promised volumes on Scotland and Ireland as well.

Bravo!

I give this one an enthusiastic A+.
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