In a slim volume, Jenkins (Thatcher and Sons, 2006, etc.) summarizes England’s past.
Beginning in 410 with the rise of the Saxons, the author divides the chapters into time frames, each focusing only on the important events of that period. This allows Jenkins to provide a comprehensive discussion of time periods and trends while still maintaining the brevity needed to keep the book under 400 pages. The author sprints through many periods of fascinating English history; Queen Elizabeth I’s tempestuous reign receives only 15 pages. Jenkins doesn’t fully illuminate the history, but he excels at creating an informative and concise narrative of England’s past and present. The book is elevated by the author’s engaging writing style, and he does a remarkable job with English royal history from 1066 to 1714, demonstrating how the individual kings and queens fit together into one coherent story. As the monarchs give way to prime ministers, the narrative loses some of its tautness, meandering through the last three centuries of English politics. Though it still provides a solid overview, it loses much of its narrative momentum. The author ends with a meditation on the reasons for England’s remarkable success as a country and his thoughts on its future. Though obviously well researched, the book would have benefitted from Jenkins’ picks for further reading on selected topics.
A broad, accessible history for those readers not well versed in English history.