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Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors Paperback – September 10, 2013
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*Starred Review* The first volume of Ackroyd’s prospective six-tome history of England extends from Stonehenge to the extinction of the Plantagenet dynasty by Henry Tudor. The strongest impression Ackroyd acquired from his survey of land and time is that of the role that habit, custom, and contingency plays in shaping history. He repeatedly repudiates a view of English history as a conscious progression toward, for example, Parliament. Similar institutions associated with England, such as Christianity and common law, arise as incremental accretions in Ackroyd’s accounts. His treatment of 1066 is characteristic. He concedes the consequentiality of the Norman conquest while emphasizing the persistence of native modes of life, such as the vernacular language that eventually, albeit not for three centuries, with Chaucer, supplanted the invaders’ French as the language of society and the governing elite. The battles for the crown supply most of Ackroyd’s narrative, but while the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses rumble on, the peasants till the soil, quaff ale, and periodically raise pitchforks and torches. The hugely popular Ackroyd’s ease of erudition ought not to be missed. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Digital edition.
“Ackroyd's trademark insight and wit, and the glorious interconnectedness of all things, permeate each page.” ―The Observer (UK)
“Ackroyd brings delightful but revealing details of the lives of the people from the past into the present.” ―Sunday Express (UK)
“With Foundation, Ackroyd makes a compelling case to be the country's next great chronicler.” ―Time Out (London)
“Given his eye for detail and the near-mythic writing in books like Thames: Sacred River, [Foundation]--not surprisingly, a huge best seller in England--promises to be an original read.” ―Library Journal
“The hugely popular Ackroyd's ease of erudition ought not to be missed.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Once again, Ackroyd exhibits his magic touch with the written word, this time with the first in a six-volume history of England.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“An extraordinary book...Peter Ackroyd is arguably the most talented and prolific writer working in Britain today.” ―Daily Express (UK)
“Ackroyd paints a portrait of early England that is both historically rich and compellingly human.” ―Shelf Awareness
“[Ackroyd] is a natural storyteller and a passionate historian, but his true skill lies in his acute eye for revealing interesting details.” ―San Francisco Book Review
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Top customer reviews
Perhaps he does sometimes draw firm conclusions in places where scholars argue otherwise, or where the jury is still out. Frankly, I don't care. I'm not looking for rock-solid detail, backed by endless footnotes and cross-references. If I were, I'd turn elsewhere. Instead, I was interested in finding a coherent narrative that would help knit together the bits and pieces of English history of which I had already read. "Foundation" is that narrative.
I'm looking forward to his work on the Tudors.
I opted to read it because I wanted to know a little more about the history of the Romans in Britain -- you'll notice I said "a little more." There are also certain other periods it touches on that I have more than a passing interest in, including Stonehenge and the Norman conquest, and I was happy to read what Mr. Ackroyd had to say about them. However, what I really found fascinating is the alternating chapters in which he touches on various parts of everyday life for the vast majority of the people around whom the battles and politics were just a minor part of their lives. For instance, as schools debate whether to continue to teach cursive writing, I didn't realize it developed during the reign of King John when so much written material was generated by the government that the calligraphers couldn't keep up. It's those aspects of this book that kept me reading and enjoying it right up to the last page.
My one complaint, since I read the Kindle version, is one I often have with Kindle editions. The illustrations were at the very end and they and the captions didn't track very well together. I hope in the future that's a problem that can be resolved. In the meantime, I'm anxious to move on to Ackroyd's next volume in this six volume series on the Tudors.
As it turns out, the illustrations are there, they are the last thing in the book and cannot be enlarged. Epic fail, Amazon. If you're going to present an edition this poorly, please use a disclaimer. Better yet, skip it.