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The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain (Oxford Illustrated Histories) Paperback – February 22, 2001

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Paperback, February 22, 2001
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The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain (Oxford Illustrated Histories)
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Illustrated Histories
  • Paperback: 646 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (February 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192893262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192893260
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,725,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Review from other book by this author: "Belongs in every school satchel, on every student's desk, in every library's catalogue... on everyone's coffee table... wherever readers have a real curiosity to discover, in words and pictures, the current stage of historical inquiry in the field of British history" --Peter Clarke, History Today

"Here is a book to intrigue the mind and gladden the eye" --Max Beloff, Art International

"A lively and stimulating overview by a selection of our best historians, scholarly but very readable" --John Kenyon, Observer

"All ten authors... embody the very qualities Kenneth Morgan hopes his quite exceptional history will instil in its readers: clarity, subtlety, enthusiasm and even affection" --TES

"An essential part of the high culture of our times, something which every educated person will be expected to have read" --Vernon Bogdanor, Encounter

"For those who want a one-volume history of Britain this is ideal and with the superb illustrations a bargain" --Glasgow Herald --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Kenneth O. Morgan is honorary Fellow of the Queen's and Oriel Colleges, Oxford. The author of many major works on British history, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1983, and became a life peer in 2000.

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
The authors do not agree on their audience.
Read Taylor
This kind of book should be enlightening and accessible to laymen and undergraduates alike; it is neither.
From reading this, I've learned that very bad history can be written, too.
Glenn Kinen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Read Taylor on February 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a good book for a reader who is little like me. I have no training in British history and little in Western. I read quite a bit of history and don't mind a challenging work, though, which lets me get through most histories without too much frustration. This book often lacked the context with which self-teaching historians can teach themselves, even with frequent map- and index-checking.
The chapters of this book are all written by different authors, each one clearly an expert on the subject of his individual chapter. The authors do not agree on their audience. For instance, Gillingham's chapter on the early middle ages was clearly written, had several maps and followed a timeline before ending with a thematic look at the economy and political structure of the period. The very next chapter, Griffiths' chapter on the late middle ages, skips around by dozens of years within a single paragraph, mentions towns in France without maps and assumes foreknowledge of the battles of the Hundred Year war. Unfortunately, this book contains more chapters like the latter than the former.
I suspect that a European or an American with a basic familiarity of British history would find this a very useful intermediate level book with which to learn or re-discover an overview of Britain. The handiness of one volume written by many experts providing an overview of such a long history is what is right with this book. To those with some background in the subject, this book will be extremely convenient and useful. For someone without European geographic knowledge or a recognition of the figures in British history, even a patient and attentive reading will lead to frustrating hunts for the background of many important figures mentioned once within the narrative and to pointless searches through inadequate maps.
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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Kinen on August 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm a half-educated American, with the vaguest notions of British history. I bought this book hoping to be able to understand the story of the British Isles, in a more or less clear outline. That didn't happen: after 200 pages, I tossed the book, wondering just who it was written for. Here's why I tossed it:
(1) It doesn't have an author. Instead, it has a bunch of authors, each apparently assigned a certain portion of British history to cover. The problem is that none of the authors seem to have consulted each other, nor did the editor seem to edit. On every other page, you see a fact or definition repeated (by a previous author), or a topic referenced (but uncovered by a previous author). History is a messy thing, but it has to be organized to be learned, and any hope of presenting material in terms of themes or movements is lost, because styles and approaches switch radically from author to author, from clear and sparse, to confusing and overly-detailed.
(2) It should have an author. This sounds like point (1), but hear me out: the editor, Mr. Morgan, claims that writing grand history, spanning the length of the British past, just can't be written anymore. It is better, rather, to have specialists write about their specialities. Sounds good in theory, but is just abominable when placed next to comprehensive histories written by single authors. Toynbee and Trevleyan wrote such history earlier. And J. Roberts writes such history now, particularly his History of Europe, and History of the World, two models of lucid historical writing that make this disjointed compilation look like an ill-considered mishmash.
(3) It should have an audience.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bati on January 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Few of us would deny that, among countless other things, Britain, that small and infinite island, has given us some of the world's greatest historians: Gibbon, Macaulay, Trevelyan... All of them writers who possessed impressive conviction, a masterful prose style, an all-embracive mind, a sharp wit, and an idiosyncratic genius. Certainly, Britain's history is not less fascinating that its historians: its course has greatly influenced (and, sometimes, dictated) the rest of the world's affairs. Like any other part of our past, it also offers a clue to understand our present - maybe even our very essence. Unfortunately, this just makes Oxford's failure to produce a decent one-volume History of Britain all the more frustrating.

Kenneth O. Morgan, the editor, asserts in his foreword that only a multi-author approach can cope with such an extensive subject, since relying purely on one writer would be "neither practicable nor desirable, now that Renaissance men have vanished from the earth." The fact that this book's most glaring deficiencies are due to the very method Morgan so heartily endorses, however, somewhat undermines his assertions. For while it may be true that a vast undertaking like the 15-volume Oxford's History of Britain, for example, would hardly be possible without the collaboration of a selected group of specialists, that same modus operandi is at odds with this book. The main strengths of a one-volume history should not be painstaking detail, but clearness, concision and consistency -something Morgan has sadly neglected. This kind of book should be enlightening and accessible to laymen and undergraduates alike; it is neither.
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