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The Conquering Family (The Plantagenets #1)

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  846 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Thomas B. Costain's four-volume history of the Plantagenets begins with THE CONQUERING FAMILY and the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066, closing with the reign of John in 1216.

The troubled period after the Norman Conquest, when the foundations of government were hammered out between monarch and people, comes to life through Costain's storytelling skill a

Hardcover, 291 pages
Published December 1st 1994 by Buccaneer Books (first published 1949)
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Jamie Collins
This is the first volume of Costain's history of the Plantagenets. It begins with the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, covers the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their children, and ends with the signing of the Magna Carta and the death of King John. This is a lot of history to cover in less than 400 pages, so he's just hitting the highlights.

This is dramatized non-fiction, for lack of a better description, and Costain has a strange writing style. One sentence will be quite
Ray Campbell
Feb 01, 2013 Ray Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Works of history range from dry, straight up re-counting of the facts to reconstructions and imaginings that have to be called "historical fiction". Even when writing scholarly history, some authors are adept at choosing and quoting facts, characters and order of presentation in such a way as to create a story line and narrative worthy of first rate fiction. If a straight recounting of facts is a 1 in terms of readability (bad), and historical fiction style non-fiction is a 10, then Costain's wr ...more
Feb 16, 2014 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! It is the first book in a series of 4 detailing the history of England from the Conqueror to the end of the Plantagenet dynasty. It's an older book, and the historian feels free to make commentary on the history, drawing conclusions about human nature and placing value judgments on what happened. That has been a real joy. For instance, he hates the code of chivalry and points out whenever it leads rulers to focus less on the good of their subjects and more on winnin ...more
Lady of the Lake
This is an EXCELLENT read. Not DRY at all and is a fast exciting read of history. I love the PLANTAGENET'S they are one of my all time favorite families in history!
Publisher's Summary

Thomas B. Costain's four-volume history of the Plantagenet's begins with The Conquering Family and the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066, closing with the reign of John in 1216.

The troubled period after the Norman Conquest, when the foundations of government were hammered out between monarch and
May 26, 2012 DoctorM rated it really liked it
I first read Costain's four-volume history of the Plantagenet family back when I was twelve or thirteen--- long, long ago. The books have long ago dropped out of sight--- popular history published first more than half a century ago. And that's a pity. I can't say that they're academic history, or that Costain's interpretations of England from the 1140s to 1485 have held up. But these are the books that introduced me to Anglo-Norman England and to a host of figures (Henry and Eleanor, the over-ma ...more
The Conquering Family is the first of four books chronicling the Plantagenet Kings of England; and traces the origins of the family from the marriage of Matilda (granddaughter of William the Conqueror) and Geoffrey of Anjou. Since Henry I (son of William) had died without a male heir, he named his daughter Matilda successor, but not all in England were happy with this choice, and there was a period called The Anarchy which took place as Matilda and her cousin Stephen of Blois struggled for the c ...more
Mercedes Rochelle
Jul 28, 2015 Mercedes Rochelle rated it it was amazing
I first read this book, oh gosh, maybe thirty years ago. In fact, it was the very first book I ever ready about the Plantagenets, and one of the first I ever read about the middle ages. What a good choice! His writing style is so smooth (I guess you would call him Popular History) that the book almost reads like a novel. This is a good thing for a history novice. I gobbled up the rest of the series, and I think his interpretations latched into my memory as the definite versions of events. This i ...more
Gary Foss
Dec 08, 2013 Gary Foss rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is a good history, if somewhat lacking in historiography. What I mean by that is that it relates the story of the historical events, and remains accurate to the information of the time, but may delve into speculation and elaboration upon occasion based upon the author's suppositions and conjectures. In this case, only educated opinions are offered up by the author, though they may not be entirely as logical and certain as the author might suggest. Readers should be particularly wary of sent ...more
Sonya Wanvig
Jul 24, 2011 Sonya Wanvig rated it it was amazing
Costain said he wanted to write a history of England that reads like a story. Wow, did he succeed! And it really is a history with no dialogue, but he writes in such a way that you don't lose interest. An older lady I know recommended Costain to me and I've been searching for his books for about a year. I finally got the spelling of Costain right and found them a couple weeks ago. My library's catalog says they have one copy of each of his books. When I got the book, it still had one of the old ...more
Aug 20, 2007 cindy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nerd-out
this one surprised me. it had been on my shelf forever, it had taken me forever to find. old-school historical fiction is no longer in print after all. right off the bat i started wondering why in the world i would like this book. the writing is dry, the style is scholarly english gentleman (who i envision composing this in a huge jane austen like library), a few exclamation points were used, all in all it read more like a textbook than novel.

but i "really liked it" as goodreads terms 4 stars a
Mouldy Squid
Jun 09, 2011 Mouldy Squid rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
History for those who hate reading history. Costain does a remarkable job of bringing to life the dry historical record of the earliest Norman kings of England. He intimately describes the character of the august personages that ruled that age and brings an immediacy to the world of the late 11th and early 12th centuries. If you are one of those (and there are a great many of you) who hate reading history this is the book for you. It is a wonderful examination of an interesting aspect of English ...more
Jun 10, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Medieval English history is a favourite of mine, particularly the Plantagenets and Tudors. Somehow, I haven't read much on the early Plantagenets but this book,has put it right. Although this book and the three follow-ups were written in the 1950's, Costain's writing style is just as good today. He writes in a semi-novel way but retains the facts without wandering too much away from what happened. It is really a history book but written in a way that engages the reader without being boring. I wi ...more
Jamison Shuck
Jul 13, 2012 Jamison Shuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great history book. Costain focuses not on dates or battles but on the personalities of the characters involved. After reading this book, you really feel like you know these famous people as people and not just as faceless drones that march through history. Its told in a type of story form, but it isnt dumbed down either. It is a historically rich text. This is one of those books that is great for the hard core history reader and also the casual reader who is interested in English roya ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Aengus rated it it was amazing
I will grant that for a more nuanced and detailed view of the history covered in the Pageant of England one might want to look elsewhere. However there is something that always brings me back Costain. He shows an obvious interest in the period and its very colorful characters. I think as an introduction to the period this book and its series cannot be surpassed. It combines masterful scholarship with a style as engrossing as any work of fiction.
Mar 20, 2013 Tomi rated it really liked it
Shelves: royal-challenge
I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading Thomas Costain! This book reads more like a novel than a work of history. I enjoyed the details about peoples' lives, their clothing, the meals they ate. Richard the Lion-Heart was a jerk and John I was a bully! They, however, were just like every other ruler of the time; Costain provides an excellent picture of the Plantagenet era, not just in England but France, Rome, and the Holy Land as well.
Apr 16, 2010 Susan rated it it was amazing
I purchased the four books in this series back in the early 80's. I ordered them through my local bookstore, didn't ask the price for whatever reason. When they came in and I went to pay for them, I was a bit shocked when the cashier related the total: $142.00 for all four. She said they were consideed to be text books. That all being said, I never regretted the money spent. I love these books!!!
THE book that introduced me to King Henry II of England, and I have been a devoted and loyal subject of his ever since. Any inaccuracies that exist in this book are easily addressed in W.L. Warren's "Henry II" and/or Richard Barber's "Henry Plantagenet". Unlike the latter two volumes, "The Conquering Family" also covers the reigns of Richard I (Lionheart) and John.
Jun 18, 2008 ROSALIE rated it it was amazing
I cannot put this book down and I am looking forward to the others written about the Plantagenets of England. There is much information about their lives, and the history they were creating. Henry 11...Richard the Lionheart...Thomas a' Becket...for starters. I love these books
Mar 12, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
This book is incredibly thorough and the author has a gift for weaving facts about medieval life into his narrative to bring the scenes to life. My only concern is that it was written so long ago and some information may have changed with further research since then.
Oct 15, 2007 Gay rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if this is considered fiction, but it reads like a novel. Actually, this is a series. The Three Edwards, The Last of the Plantagenets, and the Magnificent Century are a great intro to the history of England's kings.
David H. Friedman
Oct 08, 2012 David H. Friedman rated it really liked it
Costain is a storyteller at heart, and embellishes the history with descriptions of place and costume and emotion novelistically described. (He is always careful to distinguish history from story.) I'm looking forward to the remaining volumes.
Dawn (& Ron)
Jun 13, 2012 Dawn (& Ron) marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dawn (& Ron) by: Misfit, Laura
This, and the rest of the Plantagenet series, now available on Kindle, released March 2012. But oh my, those prices!
Jan 05, 2017 Tinika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2017
The Conquering Family is non-fiction that reads like fiction. I know that is often claimed nowadays in publisher’s blurbs to try and reach a larger audience but with The Conquering Family it really is true. Costain takes what is known and fleshes out the description. (“Reginald was a fat little fellow who walked pompously and oozed self-importance from every pore.” p272) George RR Martin claims the author, Thomas B Costain, as one of his inspirations.

Costain covers the history of the Plantagenet
Originally published in 1949, Thomas Costain's Conquering Family is a history of Henry II and his family. It is the first volume in a series about the Plantagenet Dynasty and is told from a wonderfully British perspective.

The work discusses the succession problems created when Henry I's son died in the White Ship crash. He continues through the death of that famously hated king, John.

Costain uses his British style to introduce readers to the Plantagenet's with detail and an entertaining voice.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Kendall
Aug 03, 2013 James Kendall rated it it was amazing
I love history. Most history I’ve read comes in two types. First, books so dry I miss their relevance as I struggle to remember who murdered the rightful heir to the throne again? Second, books so full of fiction which can’t be discerned from fact I feel like I just read the line “based on a true story” where based on means something very broad: i.e. there was a man and a woman in love, and they were in France, and they happened to have the same names as the protagonists.

Costain finds the balanc
Leigh Ann
This book reads very much like a textbook. The beginning of this book starts off with the first of the Plantagenet's rule, Henry I. I found this part to be a little slow. Unfortunately, the writing style is hard to follow and I had to reread several passages. Lengthy sentences combined with poor grammatical flow made it difficult to grasp what the author was actually trying to describe. It made me want to say "Just get to the point". After Henry I, the story follows the feud between Matilda and ...more
Mike Luoma
Aug 24, 2014 Mike Luoma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Began this series of four books by Costain backwards, reading The Last Plantagenets first - I'm a bit of a War of The Roses buff. That was a fantastic telling of the final century of the Plantagenets, quite enjoyable. Picked up this one next, to start at the beginning with Henry II and his sons. This one wasn't as satisfying a read, but I hesitate to declare it a lesser text, as the period is not as personally intriguing. It was an enjoyable, if occasionally uncomfortable read. That, however, wa ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Richard rated it it was amazing
Glory! This is the funnest history book. Such embellishment! Super clear, and really draws attention to the key figures successfully.

Never before has history so come to life! I appreciated that he included plenty of the legends and stories of the period, even if they proved to be historically inaccurate. I think it helped explain the perceptions of the time.

Sometimes though, his embellishments seem to veer into the realm of - how could you possibly know that! And a few Wikipedia searches show t
Oct 29, 2012 RJay rated it really liked it
Previous to this book, I've read The Three Edwards and the Last of the Plantagenets. In those books I found this author's style dry and focused on quoting source materials, with a confusing out of chronological order narrative. Not so with this book - it reads almost like a novel. So, readers, don't be afraid to tackle this one. However, I'm not sure why the author states that Henry's first illegitimate son, Geoffrey, and his last illegitimate son, William Longespee, were born by Henry's mistres ...more
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Costain was born in Brantford, Ontario to John Herbert Costain and Mary Schultz. He attended high school there at the Brantford Collegiate Institute. Before graduating from high school he had written four novels, one of which was a 70,000 word romance about Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange. These early novels were rejected by publishers.

His first writing success came in 1902 when the Brantford
More about Thomas B. Costain...

Other Books in the Series

The Plantagenets (4 books)
  • The Magnificent Century (The Plantagenets, #2)
  • The Three Edwards (The Plantagenets, #3)
  • The Last Plantagenets (The Plantagenets, #4)

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