Bill Bryson was struck one day by the thought that we devote more time to studying the battles and wars of history than to considering what history really consists of: centuries of people quietly going about their daily business. This inspired him to start a journey around his own house, an old rectory in Norfolk, considering how the ordinary things in life came to be.
"Best use of a credit"
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, a country house called The Firs in Buckinghamshire was requisitioned by the War Office. Sentries were posted at the entrance gates, and barbed wire was strung around the perimeter fence. To local villagers it looked like a prison camp. But the truth was far more sinister. This rambling Edwardian mansion had become home to an eccentric band of scientists, inventors and bluestockings. Their task was to build devastating new weaponry that could be used against the Nazis.
"Boys Own stuff but I loved it. .."
The British wars began on the morning of 23 July 1637, heralding 200 years of battles. Most were driven by religious or political conviction, as Republicans and Royalists, Catholics and Protestants, Tories and Whigs, and colonialists and natives vied for supremacy. Of the battles not fought on home territory, many took place across Europe, America, India, and also at sea. Schama's examination of this turbulent period reveals how the British people eventually united in imperial enterprise, forming 'Britannia Incorporated'.
The Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers. Even in their most private moments, they were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed. These attendants knew the truth behind the glamorous exterior.
Wentworth is today a crumbling and forgotten palace in Yorkshire. Yet just 100 years ago it was the ancestral pile of the Fitzwilliams' - an aristocratic clan whose home and life were fuelled by coal mining. This is the story of their spectacular decline: of inheritance fights; rumours of a changeling and of lunacy; philandering earls; illicit love; war heroism: a tragic connection to the Kennedys'; violent deaths: mining poverty and squalor; and a class war that literally ripped apart the local landscape.
Starting AD 400 (around the time of their invasion of England) and running through to the 1100s (the 'Aftermath'), historian Geoffrey Hindley shows the Anglo-Saxons as formative in the history not only of England but also of Europe. The society inspired by the warrior world of the Old English poem Beowulf saw England become the world's first nation state and Europe's first country to conduct affairs in its own language, and Bede and Boniface of Wessex establish the dating convention we still use today.
"What have the Anglo Saxons ever done for us?"
The story of Britain from the earliest settlements in 3000BC to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. To look back at the past is to understand the present. In this vivid account of over 4,000 years of British history, Simon Schama takes us on an epic journey which encompasses the very beginnings of the nation's identity, when the first settlers landed on Orkney. From the successes and failures of the monarchy to the daily life of a Roman soldier stationed on Hadrian's Wall, Schama gives a vivid, fascinating account of the many different stories and struggles that lie behind the growth of our island nation.
This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.
Timothy West reads the third and concluding volume of award-winning historian Simon Schama's compelling chronicle of the British Isles. Here he illuminates the period from 1776 to 2000 through a variety of historical themes, including Victorian advances in technology and industry, women's increasing role in society, and the burgeoning British Empire which promised civilisation and material betterment for all.
In The English and their History, the first full-length account to appear in one volume for many decades, Robert Tombs gives us the history of the English people and of how the stories they have told about themselves have shaped them, from the prehistoric 'dreamtime' through to the present day.
In the bleak moments after defeat on mainland Europe in winter 1939, Winston Churchill knew that Britain had to strike back hard. So Britain's wartime leader called for the lightning development of a completely new kind of warfare, recruiting a band of eccentric free-thinking warriors to become the first 'deniable' secret operatives to strike behind enemy lines, offering these volunteers nothing but the potential for glory and all-but-certain death.
"History for teenage boys."
From the best-selling author of true military classics Zero Six Bravo, The Nazi Hunters and Churchill's Secret Warriors. In the Spring of 1940, as Britain reeled from defeats on all fronts and America seemed frozen in isolation, one fear united the British and American leaders like no other: the Nazis had stolen a march on the Allies towards building the atomic bomb. So began the hunt for Hitler's nuclear weapons - nothing else came close in terms of priorities.
September 1613. In Belvoir Castle, the heir of one of England's great noble families falls suddenly and dangerously ill. Within a few short weeks he will suffer an excruciating death. Soon the whole family will be stricken with the same terrifying symptoms. The second son, the last male of the line, will not survive. It is said witches are to blame. And so the Earl of Rutland's sons will not be the last to die.
What was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time? In this book Ian Mortimer answers the key questions that a visitor to late 16th-century England would ask.
"Loved the journey"
This highly entertaining BBC Radio 4 series is written and presented by Bill Bryson and based on his best-selling book, Mother Tongue. In it, he romps through the history of Britain to reveal how English became such an infuriatingly complex - but ultimately world-beating - language.
Love history? Know your stuff with History in an Hour.The sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago in 1912, and the subsequent deaths of over 1,500 passengers, sent shock waves around the world. Never before or since has a maritime disaster in a time of peace had such an impact.
Andrew Marr's first book tells the distinctive story of Scottish politics - now updated with a new introductory chapter. "We may be about to see a new country - indeed, two new countries, emerging on these islands. Half a lifetime ago, I sat down to write this book as a work of history. As it's aged, it's become current affairs."
After a three-day romance, Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome married into the British aristocracy to become Lady Randolph Churchill. At a time when women had few freedoms, she was a cornerstone of high society and behind-the-scenes political dynamo. However it was Jennie's love life that marked her out, causing scandal and earning her the epithet 'more panther than woman'.
Like her previous books, this book will be the result of the author's passionate interest in the realities of everyday life, and the conditions in which most people lived, so often left out of history books. This period of mid-Victorian London encompasses a huge range of subjects.
A graphic and biting polemic that still holds a fierce political relevance and impact despite being written over half a century ago. First published in 1937 it charts George Orwell's observations of working-class life during the 1930s in the industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire. His depictions of social injustice and rising unemployment, the dangerous working conditions in the mines amid general squalor and hunger also bring together many of the ideas explored in his later works and novels.