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The Story of England Paperback – May 29, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Wood was born and educated in Manchester, and studied Modern History and later Anglo-Saxon History at Oxford. He has made over 100 tv films, and written four number-one bestselling books including In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great and The Story of India. He lives in Hampstead, north London, with his wife and two daughters.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670919047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670919048
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I always take a little longer to read non-fiction - just the nature of the beast.

Michael Wood is a long-standing favorite of mine - in tandem with his television series. He truly is a rarity - a historian who knows how to popularize history without losing insight and scholarship.

When I heard about his The Story of England, I just had to get it straight away. The concept of depicting the culture and history of England from prehistoric times to modern day, through the archives and archaeology of a single set of village hamlets, was inspiring. And I can say that the reading validated my anticipation.

I particularly liked the medieval period of history, and the Tudors, but I can say that the book was interesting and insightful throughout. What I particularly liked was his ability to use contrasts and comparisons between different time periods (often with examples of families who lived in or near the locale for those represented periods), and expressing insightful patterns in history.

And of course, his writing is crisp, fluid, and even at times, poetic.

Perhaps the only criticism I can throw in - which does not undermine my rating of 5 for this work - is that the geography often mentioned of areas outside of the locale are not represented by maps. As a non-Englishman, I simply lose my sense of direction and geographical context when reading about various counties and cities. It would have been helpful to have a few extra maps.

I heartily recommend this book to any student of history or culture.
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Format: Paperback
The best history is a mix of big-picture changes and an explanation of how those changes impacted on people. The villages of Kibworth appear to be the perfect vehicle for this - geographically situated in the middle of England, and fortutiously "owned" by Merton College Oxford since 1270, resulting in well-kept and well-preserved records.

This is generally a people's history: not one of Kings and Princes, although they pop up from time to time, but of the "ordinary" folk, freeholders and landless, artisan and labourer.

The prehistory side is comparatively lightly touched, but it is clear that the Kibworth area has been populated since before Roman times. There is then moving through the Roman period, the post-Roman Brittania, and the arrival of Saxons, Angles, and Vikings, more or less in that order. The location of Kibworth means it was affected by all these changes, and Mr Wood points out the various sources of surnames in the odd documents we have from that period, including one "Cybbe" who gave his (presumably his) name to the village site.

The Norman conquest is painted as a dark time in which it was unpleasant to be of English stock, and a reasonable case is made for that. After 1300, things seem to pick up, only for the Black Death to arrive, and in turn that great dying led to a new economic and social order - the rise of Lollardy, which seems to have sunk deep roots in Kibworth later flowering into nonconformism in the 1500's and thereafter.

The effect of the Enclosure Acts is covered off, and there is a pretty detailed look at the Victorian Kibworth - but then only a very brief consideration of the 20th century, including the Wars and post-war settlement.
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By anon on February 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've enjoyed Michael Woods documentaries on TV and have always found his prospective on history engaging and insightful. I agree with the previous reviewer and would only add that The Story of England reads, exactly like how it sounds on TV. It's hard not to hear his voice in your head as you read through the book. I'd also add that his description of the post-roman period of English/European history was fascinating. I highly recommend.
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Format: Paperback
Michael Wood, a superb communicator, a charismatic guide through history and legend, a diligent researcher, here abandons glamour and grandeur and tells his story literally in the grass roots of a test-case community in the English heartland. His tale begins with the population of his town digging test pits and telling the anecdotes of their past, to a background of pottery sherds, until a picture emerges, not of kings and courtiers but of townspeople: the farmers, minor officials, school teachers, church-goers and housewives, who populated the region from the Roman invasion through the subsequent layers of genetic skin: Angles and Saxons, Vikings and Normans, as the centuries roll past and a diligent, industrious people makes a success of their everyday lives. They survive famine, drought, plague, changing fortunes beyond their grasp, they reap the rewards of today...any day. This is not one of Michael's dazzling series', it is painstaking, often burdensome. There are those who would see it as boring. But I found it fascinating, as a people emerge, a collectivity, a nationality. This is the history not of England but of the English people, and it is brilliant.
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Format: Paperback
The author has provided a well-illustrated, informative historical rendition including the traditional Anglo-Saxon story and subsequent social development of England up Victorian times, as seen through an engaging depiction of the progress of Kibworth, a Leicestershire village apparently with early origins starting well before the Roman occupation. Notably, perceived gradual and continuous cultural assimilation of immigrants with preexisting populations was imaginatively reconstructed, and seemingly broadly in line with burials analysis in that region undertaken with the latest technical methods. Although not considered in the given account, some of the presumed Celtic indigenous British population in Kibworth prior to the Anglo-Saxons may alternatively have had Germanic forebears. For example see http://fchknols.wordpress.com for more contextual data on this specific point.
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