Welcome to the series where I will be sharing a selection of book reviews I have posted in the last few years. I would like to take the opportunity to showcase books that I have enjoyed and their authors and if you have not read the books, I hope it will encourage you to check them out.
Today I am sharing my review from November 2019 for the non-fiction Mike Biles – A Bit about Britain’s History: From a long time ago to quite recently.
About the book
Could this short, elegant, volume be the only book on British history you’ll ever need?
A Bit About Britain’s History is for anyone who wants a serious, yet light, introduction to Britain’s amazing story. If you don’t know the basics, or would like a reminder, this book is for you. It is also perfect for those that didn’t enjoy history at school, but who have suddenly realised they’d like to understand it a bit better now.
What did the Romans achieve? How did Christianity arrive? Who are the English and why did they fight the French so often? What is Henry VIII’s greatest legacy? When did democracy start and people get the vote? Why on earth did Britain get involved in WW1?
Organised clearly and chronologically, A Bit About Britain’s History covers every period from a long time ago until quite recently. It begins by briefly mentioning that the place was once inhabited by extremely large lizards, and ends up with a post-war 20th century consumer society. Brief articles explain the essential aspects of Britain’s past, including how the ancestors of its current inhabitants arrived, how they fought each other, formed nations, fell out over religion, acquired a large empire, became gradually more democratic, helped win a couple of world wars and were left wondering what to do next. At the end of the book are detailed timelines for each period, which provide useful reference and make fascinating reading in their own right.
A Bit About Britain’s History might be the only book on British history you’ll ever need; or it might be your stepping stone to more in-depth academic reading
My review for the book in November 2019
A wonderfully succinct but rich timeline of British History.
I loved history at school and more recently I explored our own family history as part of the Oxford Gene project in 2001 and then with Ancestry DNA. Not half as interesting or entertaining as A Bit About Britain’s History. Mike Biles has succeeded in bringing every major event from the formation of the land through to the present day in an easy to read and absorb timeline. And at the back of the book you will find a very useful section summarizing those key dates and events that have forged the ethnicity, culture, religion and alliances of modern day Britain.
Clearly painstakingly researched and compiled, there is nothing dry and dusty about this book as it brings hundreds of thousands of years of history to life. There were more than a few ‘I did not know that’ moments’, and two of those were the reasons behind the name ‘Redcoats’ for British soldiers and how the Coldstream Guards got their name.
Even if history has not been one of your passions, I do recommend that you read this book as it has all the elements of a murder mystery, political thriller and action packed historical novel. Add in some humour and it will both inform and entertain you.
Whether you are British, or one of the millions around the world with British roots, this book will give you a sense of pride, in both your origins, and the incredible challenges your ancestors had to survive in order for you to be here today.
Mike Biles has lived in Britain all his life and generally loves the place, warts and all. He first learned history on his dad’s knee and went on to study medieval and modern British and European history at university. He was planning on teaching it, but then drifted into a career running his own business. Despite having worked with some of the UK’s most prestigious firms, he is often at his happiest with his nose in a history book, or exploring a historic site where the past is close. Several years ago, Mike began a blog – now an increasingly authoritative website – ‘A Bit About Britain’. He had to write a bit about Britain’s history for the website, and it seemed only sensible to put the material into his first book, ‘A Bit About Britain’s History’.
Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the review…thanks Sally.