In my continuing quest to understand European history, I picked this up on sale from Audible a while back.
It is the first of a trilogy of books on the history of England. It is a fascinating mix of standard famous men (mostly kings) history with a fair amount of explanation about the living conditions of the standard inhabitant.
England was conquered early and many times. It is the mix of a variety of cultures. There is some very interesting linguistic history mixed in here especially around place names and political offices. It was not until near the end of this history that a king of England actually was a native english speaker (Henry IV around 1300).
Early England was violent and it had more than several despotic rulers that believed that God gave them their rule, so they needed to take advantage of everyone they could. And there were more than a few sincerely devoted kings as well, but life was not always much better for the people.
Demographics were interesting too. England under Roman rule was probably as high as 4 million people. After several rounds of invasion, the 1086 population was estimated to be down to around 2 million. But then grew to around 5 to 6 million by 1300 with a fairly stable government and economy. The Black death several times between 1348 and 1400 until the population was down to about 2.5 million. It wasn’t until around 1600 that the population grew to about 4 million. Smaller plagues and wars continued to happen, but there was not another significant population loss until (not in in this history) the 19th century started a significant migration.
I listened to this as an audiobook, but it was an engaging history. With lots of stories. There was necessarily some moving around in history as one thread was being traced and then needing to go back to pick up on another thread. Some of those jumps would have been easier in a print book with additional pictures, charts and visual clues. The naming structure of the Kings also makes it somewhat easy to mix people up. I would have been better off if I knew Shakespeare’s history plays better, but I have usually tended toward his comedies.
On the whole it was a history well worth picking up and I have put the next two in the series on my to read list.