History for Dummies
March 25, 2010 5:33 AM   Subscribe

Looking for an engaging guide to English history from the Norman Conquest onwards. Yeah, not a broad question AT ALL.

I love historical novels, movies and TV shows, but I'd love to have a broad knowledge of English history so that I don't get all my facts from them!

Where shall I start? I'd like a moderately in-depth guide, not too dumbed-down, and a good writing style would be a plus.
posted by Ziggy500 to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
How about Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples?
posted by cgs06 at 5:41 AM on March 25, 2010

Simon Schama's three volume books "A History of Britain" (Vol 1: At the Edge of the World) is pretty good: thorough, well-written, but doesn't require much pre-knowledge.

They were also made into a TV series: I haven't seen it, but it seems to have a good reputation.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:49 AM on March 25, 2010

John O'Farrell's An Utterly Impartial History of Britain; Or 2000 Tears of Upper Class Twits in Charge

he did this as a radioshow as well, that's even better.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:53 AM on March 25, 2010

1066 and All That.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:03 AM on March 25, 2010

The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain ed. Kenneth O. Morgan
posted by runincircles at 6:08 AM on March 25, 2010

Seconding Churchill.
posted by fatllama at 6:50 AM on March 25, 2010

There's a bit of Britain/England confusion going on here (question about England, answers mostly about Britain) which reflects much of the historiography and even more of the public debate. Norman Davies discusses this confusion in the introduction to The Isles: a History, of which chapters 5-10 cover your period. This attracted mixed reviews, which are discussed here. There's doubtless merit in the bad reviews but there's also a definite feeling of toes that have been trodden on (Davies is a historian of central Europe), and also of backlash (his previous book, a mammoth history of Europe, had been a big success). The positive reviews are aware of some of the book's flaws but give a strong sense of its value, too--like this one, from the London Review of Books, which unfortunately requires a log-in.

Personally, I'd say it's definitely worth a look!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:21 AM on March 25, 2010

If you enjoy podcasts, Lars Bosworth, the narrator of 12 Byzantine Rulers, is now producing Norman Centuries, which I have been greatly enjoying. (The episodes are coming out at the rate of one a month, but they are worth the wait).

(12 Byzantine Rulers and Norman Centuries previously discussed on Metafilter.)
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:08 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

T.W. Heyck's History of the British Isles series is well recommended (though perhaps a bit dense.)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
posted by Wulfhere at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2010

G. M. Trevelyan, A History of England (1926), written by one of the last great Whig historians. It's a single volume, very readable; there's also an abridged edition,
posted by russilwvong at 8:16 AM on March 25, 2010

The relevant volumes of the Pelican History of England series might bewhat you're after; definitely not dumbed down and each covers a century-plus in reasonable depth, with various noted specialists in the eras in question penning the different volumes. Not sure if there's been a recent revision or not though, so they might lag behind the latest research.
posted by Abiezer at 9:06 AM on March 25, 2010

Churchill is definitely what you want.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:09 PM on March 25, 2010

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