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Foundation (The History of England #1)

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,809 Ratings  ·  251 Reviews
Having written enthralling biographies of London and of its great river, the Thames, Peter Ackroyd now turns to England itself.

This first volume of six takes us from the time that England was first settled, more than 15,000 years ago, to the death in 1509 of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII. In it, Ackroyd takes us from Neolithic England, which we can only see in the mos
Hardcover, 486 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Macmillan
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 24, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”The house of the Plantagenets, from Henry II to Richard III himself was brimming with blood. In their lust for power the members of the family turned upon one another. King John murdered, or caused to be murdered, his nephew Arthur; Richard II dispatched his uncle, Thomas of Gloucester; Richard II was in turn killed on the orders of his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke: Henry VI was killed in the Tower on the orders of his cousin, Edward IV; Edward IV murdered his brother, Clarence, just as his own tw ...more
Dave Cullen
I'm 100 pages in and mesmerized. This answers so many questions I've had for decades about who the English actually were, what tribes they were composed of, and how both the "royalty" and "nobility" came to be, and who they were. Amazing.

(I put those words in quotes because I think they're imaginary, foul concepts. Obviously, I recognize that such classes were created and had a monumental impact, and I'm fascinated by them, but I sure don't recognize them as "noble," much less royal.)

Feb 15, 2013 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
FOUNDATION: The History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors. (2012). Peter Ackroyd. *****.
This is obviously volume one in a projected series of books on the complete history of England. While reading this, I kept thinking that it would have been a wonderful text to have been assigned for my course in English History. There is not a dry page in the book. Ackroyd, a well-respected and prolific writer about various aspects of British history (along with a goodly list of novels an
Jun 26, 2012 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: illustrated, 2012
I picked this up on a whim without hearing anything about it, unfamiliar with Ackroyd's other books but with a general enjoyment of British history (currently stronger now that I've forsaken my homeland for one of the colonies!). My knowledge of pre-Tudor history is patchy at best though. Problem solved.

We are led from the very early days of the native peoples right through a series of conquests and colonisation, wars, famous battles and rivalries, mythical figures and folklore, up until the en
Victor Gibson
Feb 18, 2013 Victor Gibson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very ambitious book, covering the period from prehistory up to the death of Henry VII, and really it would be a good ideas to have some sort of computer programme such as Visio to hand while reading it, because the relationships between the main players becomes confusing. But this is not really a fault. I was prompted to read this book after reading the author's version of the Canterbury Tales, and I'm pleased I did.

It would be difficult to find a more informative and entertaining volu
Feb 24, 2012 Rob rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
For someone like myself, who knows patches of English history but has never had an opportunity to grasp the wider picture, Foundation is the perfect remedy. It's a remarkable achievement of historical writing, somehow cramming in thousands of years of history without seeming overwhelming - creating a bold, enjoyable narrative from a complex and multi-faceted history. Ackryod carefully balances out his own enthusiasm and narrative flair with a solid respect for the history he's describing, and is ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Tobias rated it it was ok
While Ackroyd writes well and this book filled some gaping gaps in my knowledge of English medieaval history, I found it slightly lacking as a social history. There was too much focus on the power politics of the English plantagenet kings and not enough on the rest of society at large. Each individual story of the Kings is interesting in its own right and filled some gaps in my knowledge. But there are rather a lot of them and the book begins to feel like a procession of one damm King after anot ...more
Aug 11, 2013 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The author offers thoughtful new insights into age-old discussions of English history. I particularly enjoyed the way the chapters alternate between narratives about the people in power, and descriptions of everyday life.

Unfortunately, though, Ackroyd's slapdash style is annoying. Far too often, he tosses together facts and comments without drawing any meaningful connections. I suspect that if this manuscript had been submitted by a less famous author, it never would have been accepted for publi
Job van der Kooij
Apr 05, 2012 Job van der Kooij rated it it was ok
I was looking for a crash course history book, an outline of the history of England. Ackroyd has written exactly that kind of book: crash course history. In the process however he makes English history sound like a dull succession of kings and bishops. Every now and then there's a brief 'intermission' in which Ackroyd describes the more ordinary parts of English life: roads, livestock, position of women, money etc. But these separate mini-chapters actually do damage to the idea that the English ...more
I got this book as an e-book on wicked sale when I was on a business trip and needed something to read. It is LONG, but I decided to forge ahead since I love the history of England, and no matter how many versions of it I read or watch (even Simon Schama's 10-part epic monstrosity of an awesome documentary) I can never seem to remember what the heck happened in most cases.

I guess that's what happens when you have so much history to work with and so many great and juicy stories to tell along with
Mar 08, 2014 Malapata rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historia
La definición corta del libro es que se trata de una historia de Inglaterra destinada al gran público. Y como tal no entra en circunstancias de organización social, sistemas económicos, desarrollo cultural o cualquier otra cosa que pudiera resultar ardua a un lector no familiarizado con la historia. En su lugar Ackroyd se centra en reyes, batallas, invasiones y otros hechos destacados de la historia de Inglaterra desde su fundación hasta el final de la Edad Media.

Y lo hace bien. Aunque el princi
Victoria Addis

I came to this book familiar with Peter Ackroyd as a biographer. In those works, I had enjoyed his witty writing style and his interest in slightly obscure facts and conjectures, which he manages with a knowing distance. These traits continue to be found in his history writing.

Volume one of his History of England takes us from a geographical overview of prehistory through the tribal chieftain-monarchies of early England and the establishment of single ruling dynasties, up to the reign of th
Taking us through England's history from the time of the first settlers 15,000 years ago until the death of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, this was an intelligent and enthralling book entirely devoid of boring bits, filled with interesting facts and plausible theories.

Ackroyd is probably the best historian I've read to date, and paints a vivid picture of life for the general population as well as of our kings and other notables from one of my favourite periods to read about, and I eagerly awai
Feb 18, 2013 Shawn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Quit after 130 pages. Simply couldn't stand the unending gross and unsupported generalizations and the occasional outright error of fact. This may well improve as he moves beyond the Normans to better-documented eras, but there are no notes at all I have no confidence in the author's authority. I'm not the sort who reads every foot note, but when I have a question about a statement I do like to know how the author came by his information. And not a single map in the entire book! A history withou ...more
Hilmi Isa
Aug 27, 2014 Hilmi Isa rated it liked it
Shelves: sejarah-eropah
Melalui hasil pembacaan saya,didapati buku ini mengandungi banyak informasi yang mampu menambahkan pengetahuan para pembaca mengenai sejarah England. Namun demikian,pada masa yang sama,buku ini bukanlah buku yang paling sesuai untuk dibaca terutamanya kepada mereka yang ingin mengetahui sejarah England untuk pertama kalinya. Kenapakah saya menyatakan sedemikian rupa? Walaupun padat dengan informasi berguna,namun,disampaikan secara ringkas. Penulis seolah-olah menulis dengan beranggapan bahawa pa ...more
A nice boring book with a sweeping coverage of medieval English history. Actually, considerably less boring than the companion book, Rebellion. Not shockingly (or negatively, from my point of view), this book is focused on the monarchy. "From its earliest beginnings" is technically a somewhat accurate description, but a bit of an exaggeration, since coverage before the House of Wessex is interesting, but very limited. There are some short chapters (tidbits, really) covering some interesting soci ...more
An enjoyable read about a time period in England that I know very little about. This book covers the history of England from the earliest recorded times to the end of the War of the Roses. The author basically alternated chapters between covering the political leaders and social/cultural history. I enjoyed the social/cultural history a great deal as it gave me a feel for what England was like. I struggled with the political history as many of the names were not familiar to me, and the book moved ...more
May 20, 2016 Kristine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is for history junkies. It does not read like your high school European History book, but it is dense with info. I liked it!
Jess Neuner
I couldn't decide if I wished there was more social history, rather than such a heavy focus on the kings and politics and war, or if I wished Ackroyd had just left it out altogether. Every so often, there was a little mini-chapter talking about a part of social history and while they were interesting, they just felt like they were interrupting the main narrative to add what amounted to a footnote in the grand scheme of the book.

That being said, I did enjoy Foundation. It's a chronicle of the st
Sarah's Book Nook
So beyond disappointed in this poor excuse for a book. Have enjoyed Ackroyd's other books but this was absolute blech. Full review to come after I manage to reconcile all the nonsense.


My book blog ------>

I don't even.

I can't even begin to explain how disappointed I am in this book and Ackroyd's work here. I am actually kind of angry about this book. Normally he is an author I enjoy, having read several of his other titles (The Tham
Ian Brydon
Dec 18, 2014 Ian Brydon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Ackroyd must e in the running for consideration as our greatest living man of letters. While his prose style is very different from that of John Buchan, he has that same adroitness and mastery of different fields, moving effortlessly from novels to literary criticism to biography to history, with a fair sprinkling of journalism thrown in. Where does he find the time?

With this book he has embarked upon a detailed history of England, and this volume takes us from the earliest formation of pr
Pete daPixie
I have to say that I tend to grab at any Ackroyd book that I come across. I found 'London:The Biography' and 'Thames:Sacred River' to be wonderful reads. 'Shakespeare:The Biography' was another highly entertaining book. I have also sampled his 'Brief Lives' series with 'Poe:A Life Cut Short'.
I knew nothing of this one before my neighbour kindly popped round and handed it to me. Published in 2011 'The History of England-Volume 1 Foundation' encompasses a vast swathe of time. Ackroyd begins his na
Katharine Ott
Jul 07, 2013 Katharine Ott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When the first sarsen stone was raised in the circle of Stonehenge, the land we call England was already very ancient." Peter Ackroyd's "Foundation: The History of England From its Earlist Beginnings to the Tudors" is a well-told narrative taking us from interglacial periods hundreds of thousands of years ago to just before Henry VIII comes into view. While the trials and tribulations of England's rulers draw the most attention, Ackroyd does an admirable job of highlighting other topics of inte ...more
May 04, 2013 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is of necessity something of a survey history of England from prehistoric times through the reign of Henry VII, the first of the Tudors. It's well, although somewhat eccentrically, written, and alternates chapters narrating the political/military history with chapters about culture, religion, contemporary beliefs, etc. This alternation is a bit awkward; it has the effect of disrupting the momentum of those sections of political history which are particularly interesting. However, I would ce ...more
Jan 06, 2014 Olivia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the paleolithic period to the beginning of the Tudor dynasty - this first volume in Ackroyd's history of England is engaging and thorough. The best sections deal with daily life and those aspects of the English life and character which have spanned the centuries. One particularly memorable passage recounted the first known personal correspondence written in the English language, exchanged between members of the Paston family in the 1400s. As much as the world has changed since then - family ...more
Mar 28, 2016 A W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do we need another multi-volume history of England, particularly since they seem to come along two at a time? It's a question that has been asked since some poor hack had a copy of Bede's latest book land on his desk along with instructions to illuminate something interesting on it before lunch.

The answer is probably not; but when the resulting books are as good as Ackroyd's they're still worth having.

This first instalment tells our national story prehistoric times through to the death of the fi
Catherine Yarwood
We start from the beginning of mankind in England. Based on various finds by archaeologists, Mr Ackroyd paints a picture of how the earliest Britons lived. If you have only a basic knowledge of the early settlements of Britain, then this is a clear explanation about how towns formed and people moved. It also goes through the Saxons, Vikings and Romans. These are things I haven’t really covered since Year 3 at school, and I imagine the subject matter was a little different. I love reading about h ...more
Christopher Fox
Jan 23, 2016 Christopher Fox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To cover English history from prehistoric times to 1509 in 449 pages is no mean feat. Of necessity a lot of details are omitted but what Ackroyd succeeds in doing is to draw a comprehensive, intricate portrait of England as England. The sweep of his narrative is breathtaking and mirrors the inevitability of events. Along the way he supplies judicious comments and interpretations of people, their motives and actions as well as major events and their significance in the development of all things E ...more
Jan 03, 2016 judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I could probably teach English history from the Tudors to the present. Except for the Roman invasion and Stonehenge theories, I'd never given the rest of English history a thought. Obviously I'm an American, one who has no comprehension about how old Europe really is. This fascinating, completely readable book is the cure. The amazing thing about this story is that the author starts in pre-history and traces the physical layout, political structure and traditions of the English in a straight lin ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Saintjono rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whew! Got through! I don't mean to suggest that this book was unenjoyable or inaccessible, but for all the best intentions of authors you don't get many works of history that read as easily as a novel. That being said, and with that caveat in mind throughout the review, this was a great book! If a book is mediocre it is easier to list the positives and vice-versa. So let it be seen as a compliment to Ackroyd's works that I'm about to reel off some friendly criticisms!
Firstly, as someone who love
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...

Other Books in the Series

The History of England (4 books)
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I (The History of England, #2)
  • Rebellion: The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution (The History of England, #3)
  • Revolution (The History of England, #4)

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“The ordinary routines of life are never chronicled by the historian, but they make up almost the whole of experience.” 8 likes
“The house of the Plantagenets, from Henry II to Richard III himself, was brimming with blood. In their lust for power the members of the family turned upon one another. King John murdered, or caused to be murdered, his nephew Arthur; Richard II despatched his uncle, Thomas of Gloucester; Richard II was in turn killed on the orders of his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke; Henry VI was killed in the Tower on the orders of his cousin, Edward IV; Edward IV murdered his brother, Clarence, just as his own two sons were murdered by their uncle. It is hard to imagine a family more steeped in slaughter and revenge, of which the Wars of the Roses were only one effusion. It might be thought that some curse had been laid upon the house of the Plantagenets, except of course that in the world of kings the palm of victory always goes to the most violent and the most ruthless. It could be said that the royal family was the begetter of organized crime.” 2 likes
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