British History for Dummies [NOOK Book]

Overview

This book is a riotous, irreverent account of the people and events that have shaped Britain. It's a "who, what, when, where and why" that reads like a thriller and a comedy all rolled into one. Inside you'll find rip-roaring stories of power-mad kings, executions, invasions, high treason, global empire-building and forbidden love -- not bad for a nation of stiff upper lips.
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British History for Dummies

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Overview

This book is a riotous, irreverent account of the people and events that have shaped Britain. It's a "who, what, when, where and why" that reads like a thriller and a comedy all rolled into one. Inside you'll find rip-roaring stories of power-mad kings, executions, invasions, high treason, global empire-building and forbidden love -- not bad for a nation of stiff upper lips.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470687062
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/3/2009
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 444
  • Sales rank: 1,135,886
  • Product dimensions: 7.34 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.98 (d)
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

Sean Lang studied history at Oxford and has been teaching it to school, college, and university students for the past twenty years. He has written textbooks on nineteenth and twentieth century history, and is co-editor of Modern History Review. Sean regularly reviews textbooks for the Times Educational Supplement and has written on history teaching for the Council of Europe. He is a Research Fellow in History at Anglia Ruskin University and Honorary Secretary of the Historical Association, and is currently undertaking research on women in nineteenth-century British India.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
About This Book 1
Conventions Used in This Book 2
Foolish Assumptions 3
How This Book Is Organised 3
Icons Used in This Book 6
Where to Go from Here 7
Part I The British Are Coming! 9
Chapter 1 So Much History, So Little Time 11
A Historical Tin of Beans--But Not Quite 57 Varieties 12
How the UK Was Born 15
You're Not From Round 'Ere--But Then Again, Neither Am I 18
Whose History Is It Anyway? 20
Chapter 2 Sticks and Stone Age Stuff 23
What a Load of Rubbish! What Archaeologists Find 24
Uncovering Prehistoric Man 25
The Stone Age 26
Plough the Fields, Don't Scatter--the Neolithic Revolution 30
Giving It Some Heavy Metal: The Bronze Age 32
Chapter 3 Woad Rage and Chariots: The Iron Age in Britain 35
The Iron Age: What It Was and How We Know What We Know 35
Figuring Out Who These People Were 38
Life in Iron Age Britain 41
This Is NOT a Hoax: The Belgians Are Coming! 45
More Blood, Vicar? Religion in the Iron Age 46
Part II Everyone Else Is Coming! The Invaders 49
Chapter 4 Ruled Britannia 51
A Far-Away Land of Which We Know Virtually Nothing 51
They're Back--with Elephants! 54
Roman in the Gloamin'--Agricola 57
"And What Have the Romans Ever Given Us in Return?" 57
Time to Decline and Fall ... and Go 62
Chapter 5 Saxon Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll 67
They're Coming from All Angles! 68
Disunited Kingdoms 70
We're on a Mission from God 74
Winds of Change 80
Chapter 6 Have Axe, Will Travel: The Vikings 83
The Fury of the Norsemen 84
Some Seriously Good Kings 86
The Vikings Are Gone--Now What? 91
The Messy Successions Following Cnut 95
Chapter 7 1066 and All That Followed 99
The King Is Dead, Long Live, er ... 99
King Harold--One in a Million, One in the Eye 100
William Duke of Normandy, King of England 104
William Dies and Things Go Down Hill 111
Part III Who's in Charge Around Here? The Middle Ages 115
Chapter 8 England Gets an Empire 117
Meet the Family 117
Henry II and the Angevin Empire 119
Murder in the Cathedral 124
Royal Families and How to Survive Them 126
Richard I--the Lion King 128
King John 129
Chapter 9 A Right Royal Time--the Medieval Realms of Britain 133
Basic Background Info 134
Simon Says "Make a Parliament, Henry!" 135
I'm the King of the Castles: Edward I 136
You Say You Want a (Palace) Revolution: Edward II 139
Conquering France: The Hundred Years War and Edward III 141
Lancaster vs. York: The Wars of the Roses--a User's Guide 145
Chapter 10 Plague, Pox, Poll Tax, and Ploughing--and Then You Die 151
Benefits of the Cloth 151
The Black Death 159
The Prince and the Paupers: The Peasants Revolt 160
Part IV Rights or Royals? The Tudors and Stuarts 165
Chapter 11 Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown 167
Princes and Pretenders 167
And Then Along Came Henry (the VIII, that is) 171
The Stewarts in a Stew 175
The First Elizabeth 179
Chapter 12 A Burning Issue: The Reformation 185
Religion in the Middle Ages 185
Back in England with Henry VIII 191
God's on Our Side!--The Protestants and Edward VI 195
We're on God's side!--The Catholics and Queen Mary 196
Elizabeth Settles It ... or Does She? 197
Scotland Chooses Its Path 199
Chapter 13 Crown or Commons? 203
The Stewarts Come South 203
Charles I 207
Civil War: Battle Hymns and a Republic 212
Oliver! 215
Restoration Tragi-Comedy 217
So, Who Won--The Crown or Parliament? 218
Chapter 14 Old Problems, New Ideas 221
The Renaissance: Retro Chic 221
It's No Fun Being Poor 225
New Ideas 226
Part V On the Up: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries 233
Chapter 15 Let's Make a Country 235
No Popery! No Wooden Shoes! 235
1688: Glorious (?) Revolution (?) 236
Ireland: King Billy of the Boyne 238
Making Great Britain: Making Britain Great? 241
George, George, George and, er, George 248
Whigs and Tories 250
Fighting the French: A National Sport 251
Chapter 16 Survival of the Richest: The Industrial Revolution 255
Food or Famine? 255
Getting Things Moving: Road Work 258
Trouble Over: Bridged Water 259
Revolutionising the Cloth Trade 259
It's (Not So) Fine Work, If You Can Get It: Life in the Factories 261
All Steamed Up 263
Do the Locomotion 264
Any Old Iron? 264
Tea, Sympathy, and the Slave Trade 265
Why Britain? 267
Chapter 17 Children of the Revolutions 269
Revolutions: Turning Full Circle or Half? 269
A British Civil War in America 270
The French Revolution 275
A British Revolution? 281
Chapter 18 Putting on My Top Hat--The Victorians 287
Queen Victoria 288
Prime Ministers and MPs of the Age 289
Troubles at Home and Abroad 293
How Victorian Were the Victorians? 297
Things Can Only Get Better 300
Chapter 19 The Sun Never Sets--But It Don't Shine Either 303
New World Order 304
India Taken Away 306
Cook's Tour: Australia and New Zealand 309
Opium? Just Say Yes: China 310
Wider Still and Wider: Scrambling for Africa 311
The Colonies Grow Up--As Long As They're White 316
Lion Tamers 316
Part VI Don't Look Down: The Twentieth Century 319
Chapter 20 The Great War: The End of Innocence--and Everything Else? 321
Indian Summer 321
Alliance Building 324
The Great War 327
Chapter 21 Radio Times 333
Big Troubles 333
The Years That Roared 338
How Goes the Empire? 340
The Road to Munich 342
World War Two 343
Chapter 22 TV Times 349
We Are the Masters Now 349
End of Empire 353
Losing an Empire, Finding a Role 356
Disunited Kingdom? 362
Part VII The Part of Tens 365
Chapter 23 Ten Top Turning Points 367
End of the Ice Age, c.7,500 BC 367
The Romans Invade Britain, 43 AD 367
The Synod of Whitby, 664 368
The Norman Invasion of England, 1066 368
The English Invade Ireland, 1170 368
The Battle of Bannockburn, 1314 369
Henry VIII Breaks with Rome, 1532 369
Charles I Tries to Arrest Five MPs, 1642 369
The Great Reform Act, 1832 370
The Fall of Singapore, 1942 370
Chapter 24 Ten Major Documents 371
Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731) 371
The Book of Kells (800) 371
Magna Carta (1215) 372
The Declaration of Arbroath (1320) 372
The Authorised "King James" Version of the Bible (1611) 372
The Petition of Right (1628) 373
Habeas Corpus (1679) 373
Lord Mansfield's Judgement (1772) 373
The People's Charter (1838) 374
Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) 374
Chapter 25 Ten Things the British Have Given the World (Whether the World Wanted Them or Not) 375
Parliamentary Government 375
The English Common Law 376
Organised Sport 376
The Novel 376
DNA 377
The BBC 377
The Beatles 377
Tea with Milk 378
Penicillin 378
Gilbert and Sullivan 378
Chapter 26 Ten Great British Places to Visit 379
Skara Brae 379
Iona 379
Hadrian's Wall 380
Durham 380
Stirling Castle 380
Beaumaris 381
Armagh 381
Chatsworth House 381
Ironbridge 382
Coventry Cathedral 382
Chapter 27 Ten Britons Who Should Be Better Known 383
King Oswald of Northumbria 383
Robert Grosseteste 384
Nicholas Owen 384
John Lilburne 384
Olaudah Equiano 385
John Snow 385
Sophia Jex-Blake 386
Emily Hobhouse 386
Dr Cecil Paine 387
Chad Varah 387
Index 389
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First Chapter

British History For Dummies


By Sean Lang

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-7021-8


Chapter One

So Much History, So Little Time

In This Chapter

* Listing the kingdoms that make up the United Kingdom

* Figuring out how the UK was formed

* Identifying the people who make up the UK

British history is a history of a variety people inhabiting a variety of regions. In fact, all this variety is one of the reasons why the country's name is so ridiculously long: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It's a mouthful, for sure, but it reveals a great deal about the people - past and present - who have inhabited these islands.

When you think of history lessons at school, what comes to mind - before your eyelids droop, that is? Probably endless lists of kings or Acts of Parliament and confusing tales of people named after places ("Ah! Lancaster! Where's Worcester?") who spend their time swapping sides and cutting each others' heads off. You might think of the stories: Drake playing bowls as the Spanish Armada sails up the Channel or Robert the Bruce watching a spider spinning his web, or Churchill hurling defiance at Hitler. Good stories, yes, but what's the connection between these events and you? If you tend to think of history as merely a series of disconnected events, you miss the bigger picture: History is about people.

REMEMBER

British history is full of wonderful people (quite a few of whom were clearly starkraving mad, but that's history for you) and exciting events - all of which helped make Britain the sort of place it is today. In examining what made Britain Britain, you'll also discover the British helped make the world. In that sense, whoever you are, British history is also probably part of your history. Enjoy.

A Historical Tin of Beans - But Not Quite 57 Varieties

British history is incredibly varied. That's partly because any country that can trace its history back to the mists of time is going to have a varied tale to tell, but it's also because of the nature of the country itself. To get a glimpse of how the union was formed, head to the section "How the UK Was Born". To find out who makes up the UK, see "You're Not From Round 'Ere - But Then Again, Neither Am I".

An island nation

Before the Romans came, the whole island was one big patchwork of different tribes: There was no sense that some tribes were "Scottish" and some "English". In fact, since the Scots were an Irish tribe and the English, if they existed at all, lived in Germany, no-one would have understood what either term meant!

England

After the Romans, the Angles and Saxons set up a whole network of different kingdoms: Kent, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, and some other less important ones. Not until the Vikings arrived did the English start to unite under a single King. It was this united kingdom that William the Conqueror took over when he won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. He would hardly have bothered if he was only going to become King of Wessex.

REMEMBER

After the Norman invasion, although it was easier to speak of "England", it was much harder to talk about the English. The ordinary people were of Saxon blood, but the nobles were all French - Normans to start with and later from other parts of France. There's a whole sweep of famous Kings of England, including Richard the Lionheart, King John, the first three Edwards, and Richard II, who would never have called themselves English. It's not really until Henry V and the Wars of the Roses that you can talk of everyone from top to bottom being part of an English people.

Scotland

The Romans did have a sense of "Scotland", or Caledonia as they called it, being a bit different, but that was just because they were never able to conquer it completely. There were Britons in Strathclyde and Picts in most of the rest of Caledonia, and then Scots came over from the north of Ireland and settled. It took a long time, but eventually these three groups all learned to get along with each other. It was a Scottish King, Kenneth MacAlpin, who finally managed to unite the groups, so the whole area came to be called after his people - "Scotland".

Wales

"For Wales", it used to say in indexes and things, "see England"! Which is desperately unfair, but for many years that was how the English thought about it. The Welsh are descended pretty much directly from the Ancient Britons, and they have kept their separate identity and language. You'll still find Welsh being spoken in parts of North Wales today.

Ireland

Most people think of Irish history in terms of Ireland being invaded by the English, but if anything, it was the other way round in the beginning. Apart from one or two trading posts, the Romans left Ireland alone (except, that is, for a certain Roman Briton called Patrick, who did make something of an impact). After the Romans left Britain, the Irish started to come over as missionaries, not conquerors. They set up the great monasteries of Iona and Lindisfarne, and Irish monks and preachers like St Columba brought Christianity to Scotland and northern England. Some Irish did cross over to settle, and as we've seen, one of these tribes, the Scotti or Scots, gave their name to Scotland. Once the Normans settled in England, however, things changed.

And all those little islands

Islands play an important part in what is, after all, the story of an island people. Scottish missionaries worked from Iona and Lindisfarne, and Queen Victoria governed a worldwide empire from Osborne Palace on the Isle of Wight. The islands are a reminder of the cultural and ethnic variety that makes up the British peoples.

The Shetland Islands and the Isle of Man

The most northerly parts of Britain are the Shetland Islands. You might think of them as Scottish, but you'd be badly wrong. The Shetlanders are of pure Viking stock and proud of it. You can touch the Viking heritage in the Manx people of the Isle of Man, though ethnically they are Celtic. They say you can see five kingdoms from Man - England, Ireland, Scotland, Gwynedd (Wales), and the Kingdom of Heaven! - and the Vikings used it as a base for controlling all of them. The Isle of Man boasts the world's oldest parliament, Tynwald, a descendant of the Viking "parliament", the Thing.

The Channel Islands

At least with the Shetlands and the Isle of Man, you know you are still in the United Kingdom. You can be forgiven for wondering when you drop in on the Channel Islands. The islands all look English enough, but their English road signs carry French names, the police are called the Bureau des Etrangers, and the money looks like British money, but isn't. The Channel Islands were part of the Duchy of Normandy, and when you look at the map, you can see that they're virtually in France. These islands have kept many of their distinctive customs and laws including, as rich people found out long ago, much more relaxed tax regulations.

The Channel Islands were the only part of British territory to fall to the Germans in the Second World War, and Hitler made full use of them for propaganda purposes. Perhaps not surprisingly, historians who have looked into the German occupation have found just as much evidence of active collaboration and collusion in the Channel Islands as anywhere else in occupied Europe. Even more tragically Alderney became a slave labour camp for prisoners from all over the Nazi empire.

How the UK Was Born

So how did this strange hybrid country with the long-winded name that no-one actually uses actually come into being? If you want a full answer, you'll have to read the whole book, but here's a quick overview. As you'll see, it was a mixture of conquest, immigration, Acts of Union, all going to produce a very British sort of melting pot.

England: Head Honcho

England was bound to play the leading role. It's much bigger than any of the other parts of Britain, and closer to the Continent. It had been part of the Roman Empire, and the Viking invasions gave the English a strong sense of unity against a common enemy. The English didn't consciously set out to conquer their neighbours: They had been fighting the Welsh on and off since Saxon times, so when King Edward I finally conquered Wales in 1284 it seemed a natural conclusion to a very long story. With Scotland, despite all those battles the English were never trying to overrun the country: They simply wanted a pro-English monarch on the Scottish throne for their own safety's sake.

The real problem for the English was Ireland, because they were never able to control it. England's great worry was always that the Irish or the Scots would ally with the French - and they often did. The English managed to persuade the Scottish parliament to agree to an Act of Union in 1707 (which, as it turned out, enabled the Scots to benefit to the full from England's Industrial Revolution!) The English imposed direct rule in Ireland in 1801, but mainly as a security measure: Ireland never benefited from union with England to the same degree as Scotland did.

For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the English took their commanding position within the United Kingdom more or less for granted. England was what counted; the rest were the "Celtic fringe". But by the 1990s that confidence had gone. After years of having no governing body of their own, the "Celtic fringe" once again had their own parliaments and assemblies; England was beginning to look like the Rump of the United Kingdom. So the English began to rediscover a national sense of their own: They began to fly the flag of St George at football matches, and there was even talk of setting up special assemblies for the English regions. Watch this space.

The conquest of Scotland

Like England, Scotland began as a collection of different tribes, which slowly and painfully began to form themselves into a nation. Of course hostility to the English was a great help, and it's no coincidence that Scotland's most important statement of national identity, the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, dates from the period of the fiercest wars for independence from England. Well into the sixteenth century the Scots maintained an anti-English alliance with France - the "Auld Alliance" as it was called - which was guaranteed to stop the English government form sleeping at night.

But although there was always plenty of fighting between Scotland and England, by no means were all Scots anti-English. The English negotiated marriage alliances with the Scots - Henry VIII's sister became Queen of Scotland - so there was usually a pro-English faction somewhere at court. When the Protestant Reformation took hold in the sixteenth century, Scottish Protestants naturally looked to Tudor England for support against the Catholics of the Highlands, and especially against the Catholic and very accident-prone Mary, Queen of Scots. People usually know that it was the English who cut Mary's head off; they often forget that the Scots had already overthrown her and locked her up themselves.

In the end, it wasn't the English who got their own man on the throne in Edinburgh, but the Scots who got their man on the throne in London. When Elizabeth I died childless in 1603, King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne. It was a Union of the Crowns but not yet of the nations: That had to wait a hundred years until the Act of Union of 1707. From then on Scotland played an active role in the United Kingdom: The British Empire could hardly have carried on without the large number of Scottish missionaries, doctors, soldiers and administrators who served it. But the Scots kept their strong sense of separate identity, and in 1997 they finally got their parliament back.

The conquest of Wales

The Normans began the conquest of Wales, and for many years, parts of Wales were ruled by the powerful Norman "Marcher Lords" (see Chapters 8 and 9 for a bit more on this). The Welsh princes Llewellyn the Great and Llewellyn ap Gruffyd fought back, but in the end King Edward I conquered Wales and planted massive big castles all over it. Owain Glyn Dwr had a good go at pushing the English out, but it was not to be.

Ironically the people who finally snuffed out Welsh independence were themselves Welsh: the Tudors. Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven to challenge King Richard III and become King Henry VII, and it was his son, Henry VIII, who got Parliament to pass an Act of Union making Wales, in effect, a province of England. And Wales stayed like that until Tony Blair agreed to a Welsh Assembly in 1997. A long wait!

The conquest of Ireland

Ireland's great Christian heritage was to prove her undoing. Pope Adrian IV (who also happened to be the only English pope there's ever been) gave King Henry II permission to go over to Ireland and bring the Irish church into the Roman fold whether the Irish liked it or not. So a great wave of Anglo-Norman knights crossed the Irish Sea and claimed Ireland for the English crown.

Religious strife

When the Reformation started in the sixteenth century, the descendants of those Anglo-Norman knights went along with the new Protestant religion, but the Celtic Irish stayed Catholic. Queen Elizabeth I and her ministers came up with a clever solution: "plant" Scottish Protestants in Ireland. Hey presto! The Catholic province of Ulster became the most fiercely Protestant and loyal area in the kingdom.

FROM PAST TO PRESENT

When the English threw out their Catholic King James II in 1688, the Irish rallied to help him, but the Ulster Scots were having none of it: They defied King James, thrashed him at the Battle of the Boyne and sent him packing. Their descendants in modern-day Ulster have never forgotten it, and they make sure their Catholic neighbours don't forget it either.

Famine and Fenians

After the seventeenth century, the British brought in all sorts of laws to take away Catholics' civil rights, which in effect kept Ireland in poverty for generations. Pockets of affluence existed - Dublin was a very elegant eighteenth-century city - but Ireland was a bit like modern-day India in its mixture of extreme poverty and great wealth. Even the Protestant Irish were beginning to feel that the laws against Catholics were unfair and dragging the whole country down, and they began to argue for Catholic Emancipation, especially the right to vote. By the time emancipation came, the British had closed Ireland's parliament down, then governing Ireland directly from London. Then, in the 1840s, the potato crop in Ireland failed and produced one of the worst famines of modern times. Those who could got out of Ireland and spread around the world, taking their hatred of England and the English with them.

Continues...


Excerpted from British History For Dummies by Sean Lang Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    A different look at British History!

    I bought this book just to see how amusing it's interpretation of British History would be to a Briton.
    I find it very interesting and amusing. Too bad our history books in school were not written this way!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    Great for getting your feet wet in British History

    I was looking for a general overview of British history that would fill in some of the gaps in my existing knowledge---I wasn't expecting it to be so much fun! This book is highly engaging, humorous, and informative. The author clears up some of British history's most confusing topics (Wars of the Roses, for instance) with great one-liners and englightening explanations that are easy to remember. I highly recommend this book for those who knows nothing about British history and those who know just about everything; you can't finish this book without gaining something.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    DA BEST BOOK EVEA

    ONLY REASON Y ITS GOOD CAUSE ITS ABOUT THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Wanna chat

    Go to percy jackson and the lightning theif any day @ 3:30 and title it hey

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Hi amanda im 14 Hi amanda im 14

    Wass up how old are u

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Bilho

    Hello

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Thomas to amanda

    What book u want to go

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Katrina

    Hey people

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Amanda

    Try the illiad

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    British History in a Nutshell

    Ties centuries and millennia together in an interesting, concise manner.
    Helps with the facts that got lost or muddled. Tosses in interesting, but relevant issues and trivia.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    A lighthearted and entertaining survey of English history

    For light entertainment and interesting, somewhat "different" bits of information about English history, this is an excellent choice!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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