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This Blessed Plot

December 14, 2012 by Reader's Connection

The 2012 gift suggestion list had only one history title on it so far, about the battle of Tippecanoe. I’m grateful to Deanna Long of the East Washington branch for expanding the range.
Foundation: The History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors
‘This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England’ King Richard II. Act ii. Sc. 1.

Peter Ackroyd is fast becoming the historian/biographer of all things/people British. Foundation: The History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors is another book in this grand new tradition. Two of his previous works, Thames: The Biography and London: The Biography are similar in detail and clarity. Foundation shares with Ackroyd’s Dickens the clear love and affection he has for his subjects. For those familiar with the history of England or those wishing to know more, this is a well-constructed work, followed easily, informative, but not ponderous. Each chapter is split between the political history; Kings, Queens, revolts, etc., and interesting sidelights into life on the island. For example: accounts from court reports declare that certain people made “a great roistering with unknown minstrels, tabor-players and trumpeters to the grave disquiet of the entire neighbourhood”. So the party animals next door with the loud music have a long and annoying history.

And that kind of connection is one of the great joys in reading this book; Ackroyd draws connections from pre-history to the present while examining the similarities and differences between ages of mankind. The idea that Rome created roads in England is a romantic one, but in many cases, they simply followed the Celtic or Saxon paths that had been in existence for centuries. The description of Anglican churches, built on Catholic churches, built on Celtic holy sites, built on ancient altars to gods we no longer know grounds us, reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun, and Ackroyd makes that a comforting and wondrous idea.

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