It’s Good To Be the King! 

By Peter Ackroyd

Thomas Dunne Books, $29.99, 486 pages

Foundation: the History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors is the first book of a six volume set. If this first book is any indication, the set will be a must have for any true Anglophile. Peter Ackroyd has an accessible writing style that gave me the sense that I was participating in a conversation about English history, rather than listening to a dry recitation of facts and figures. The author states early on that the history of England is largely a history of her kings. While most of the book describes the activities of the kings, a great deal of it describes the day to day lives of the commoner, whether slaves or freemen.

As most anglophiles know England has been subject to repeating waves of invasion and assimilation, even the name England itself means “Land of the Angles”, just one of the many tribes that invaded that island over many millennia. This ancient history provides the backdrop for what’s to come later. Of most interest to me as a reader was nation-building and the creation of an English national identity following the Roman occupation of the first four centuries A.D. and the repeated Viking invasions of the seventh through 10th century.

England has a bloody, violent history. This isn’t a history textbook, if you’re looking for footnotes or citations of other scholars, this is the wrong book for you. This is a book meant for the casual historian, one looking for a narrative history of England, rather than a purely scholarly work. Through that lens, this book is fascinating.

Reviewed By Brad Wright

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