Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

By Peter Ackroyd

The Short Take:

If you want a reasonably short (roughly 450 pages) history of early England, this might be the book for you. It was certainly informative. However, it read like it had not been thoughtfully edited. Or, maybe that’s just Ackroyd’s style.

Why?

I gleaned a lot of fascinating information from this book and the writing is certainly accessible. However, I suspect one would be better off reading several books that went more in depth on the particular historical periods covered.   There just wasn’t enough context to make me fully satisfied.

Add to that the fact that Ackroyd repeated himself with the same editorial comments throughout. I got the idea that life for serfs was hard without constant repetition of the fact. I didn’t dislike the book: it certainly educated me a great deal without a lot of effort on my part. However, I never warmed up to it, either.

Perhaps this reading suffered from coming too close on the heals of an Alison Weir biography about Queen Isabella (who was part of this history); and Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, which covered a lot of the same time period but from a social rather than historical perspective.

Ultimately, I’m glad I read it and will probably read some of the later books, though I’ll skip the next one on the Tudors since I’ve read all of Weir’s excellent books on that era. Whatever else, it is a good way to get an encapsulated history.

A Little Plot:

The title basically says it all. It starts before Stonehenge and continues through to the death of Henry VII (why he isn’t with the other Tudor’s in the next book I have no idea). The earlier parts were the most interesting to me, especially the waves of invasion/immigration. But, that’s just me.

 

 

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