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A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps
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A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  105 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Stamps tell a story—and Chris West’s book is the unique, fascinating tale of Great Britain told through its stamps.

Hailed by The Times of London as “a splendid reminder of the philatelic glories of the past,” A History of Britain in36 Postage Stamps tells the rich, layered, and breathtaking history ofEngland through thirty-six of its fascinating, often beautiful, and somet
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Picador (first published October 1st 2012)
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A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps by Chris West is a unique take on looking at history. West is a graduate of the London School of Economics where he studied economics and philosophy. He wrote his first book Journey into the Middle Kingdom after the traveling to China. His fiction includes the China Quartet four crime novels based in the the People's Republic of China. West's other non-fiction include books on business and entrepreneurship.

Stamps are history. I remember having s
This was precisely the kind of non fiction I enjoy. Informative and educational without being boring or pedantic. Chris West does a phenomenal job of capturing the history of Britain from the time stamps were invented to present. I loved his writing style, very acessible with occasional dash of wry british humor. I read an advance reading copy of the book won on GR giveaway, I can imagine when the book actually comes out, it'll be even more awesome, since all this arc was missing were some photo ...more
Margaret Sankey
Like the pennies I use for the opening day in World History, stamps are a public, conservative representation of how the establishment wants to present the country to the world. West chooses thirty-six iconic stamps, tracing the expanding reach of technology and empire until the dramatic shift of post WWII stamps into social and cultural themes (with the first non-white Briton appearing on a stamp, celebrating scouting, in 1982).
Robbie Leslie
This is a super book. The idea of presenting a history of the United Kingdom through its stamp issues, beginning with the Penny Black, is certainly quirky but it works well. Mr West knows his stamps and he knows his history. The Penny Black stamp issue occurred at the very beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. It was a postal, and social, revolution and thus makes a great starting point for a discussion of the huge social, economic and political advances that occurred during Victoria's long reign ...more
I won A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps by Chris West in a Goodreads giveaway. I received an advanced reader’s copy of trade paperback size, with a handsome glossy cover printed in dark, rich colors. The book is nearly 280 pages with appendix and index, and the book has a defined style to it, with bordered pages and an old-timey family of font faces.

Mary Poppins taught us “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, and in this same way the amiability of thirty-six postage s
Jennifer-Eve Workman
Nov 11, 2013 Jennifer-Eve Workman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History Buffs, Stamp Collectors
Recommended to Jennifer-Eve by: Goodreads Giveaways
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Being a history buff and doing genealogy in my free time, I was very excited to receive this book. Whenever I can trace a family root to a new country, I try to research it and find out about its history. This book was able to spare the usual boring high school-like lecture on history. It was also neat that you could learn so much based on their postage stamps... I'm pretty sure the US couldn't do the same. LOL

The author, Chris West was able to tell a sta
This is a very unique look at British history through the stamps that represent historical events and/or individuals. Although not that familiar with most of Britain's history, especially its storied monarchy, this book provided an enjoyable historical backstory to each of the 36 stamps. One memorable line from Chapter 32: "This is the world as understood by postmodernist philosophers, where there is no reality, only constructs, and where politics (and everything else) is about who can create th ...more
Excellent hook for an informative nonfiction work. Stamps and history are inextricably intertwined, on both the superficial (those people and events that are chosen for depiction) and deep levels (the long history of postage allows us a consistent basis by which to view history at large). West chooses well and weaves a seamless narrative.
Limited in scope (naturally), and at times a bit forced, but highly readable, very clever, and very knowledgeable perspective on modern British history as seen through the lens of postage stamp.
Dan Sibbet
This charming book is more about English culture and society than about postage stamps. Author West writes in a breezy, down-to-earth style that moves the reader right along to the next chapter (that is, the next stamp). As he notes in a postscript, it is a challenge to present 150 years of the history of Britain into just 75,000 words. But using selected stamps as guideposts, he does so, and quite delightfully. I especially liked his presentation of the period from the end of WWII to Margaret T ...more
I really liked this book. It was a very interesting way to follow the track of modern British history, which in many ways corresponds with that of the USA.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher through Goodreads First-reads giveaway program.

Each time we've gone to a stamp show my wife and I first head to poster presentations to see what people have put together. Philatelists take a theme, or a bit of postage history and develop one to many panels that explore the concept in a mixture of text and stamp presentation. They can vary from very dry postal minutiae to stunning artistic displays, and all between.

West's work h
Holly Cline
I like the gimmick of this book that I won through First Reads. It's a good idea to use ever changing postage stamps as a guideline to tell a more modern history of Britain. There were of course times when a chapter's stamp didn't REALLY jive with the story being told, but for the most part, this book is exactly what I needed it to be. It reads a bit like a British History for Dummies guide, but I didn't find it too simple. Probably because I'm American, and in American schools we don't focus so ...more
Tom Donaghey
Chris West has managed to hang the meaty history of Britain from 1840 to today on the armature of 36 postage stamps and the result is impressive. Like Bill Bryson before him, West has taken what would normally be thought of as a relatively tame concept (talking about stamps) and exploded it into a thoroughly fascinating and delightful read. Using the story of the stamp as a starting point, he manages to take the reader on a fun romp though the doughty and sometime overwhelming history of what h ...more
I received a free ARC of this book through Goodreads First Reads giveaways. Using stamps as a jumping off point for a trip through British history from the Victorian era through today, this book was a surprisingly engaging read. Bits of information about the stamps themselves, the printing process, the post office, etc. appeal to the collector and provide a glimpse into British postal culture, particularly for an American reader like me. West's writing style had much more pep than I was expectin ...more
Andrea Stoeckel
This is a fascinating look at the history of Britan reflected in the tiny scraps we call stamps. Stamps are interesting. Even I have collected a few in my life. They are windows into what is important at that time. West's pretense is that in Britan, they have been used to bloster flagging spririts, defend the monarchy, present a united front, and as the 21st century begins, project hope in the people.

British stanps always remind us that "someone is watching" from the very first one. Most stanps
Quick review: I am amazed at how much I really enjoyed this book.

Full review: My first thought after reading this book was that it would make a great series. For example I would love to find out the history of other countries though their stamps. This approach was very unique and interesting. The author covered a lot of different historical topics in a unique way. Sometimes books discussing historical events revisit the same topics over and over again in an attempt to show the whole story. The
Clever way of distilling history through postage stamps. Clearly written, minimal author intrusion, salient facts, not terribly deep. However, a rewarding read. Accurate for the stamp enthusiast, interesting for the history buff. Overall, an original and creative way to get vignettes of British History in a short volume. A fun read.
Kim Clarke
I enjoyed the part about the history of the postal service and the self adhesive payment labels most as the rest of the british history was covered VERY fast. I know that a short book like this can only say so much about centuries but the latter parts felt very rushed.

Does make me more likely to find another book on the history of stamps though.
I won this book from Goodreads First Reads (thanks!).

This was an interesting premise for a book...the author chose 36 stamps to represent the major events in British history since 1840. I found the time frame to be fairly manageable and the way he brought in a wide variety of significant events was impressive. My British history knowledge (ok, my history knowledge in general) is somewhat limited, so this provided me with a good background. The main thing that didn't work for me was that within e
Disclaimer: I won my copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

This book was exactly what I was hoping for: a pleasant, easy read about British history from Queen Victoria until now. I am an avid stamp collector as well as a big reader of historical subjects (it seems like most people do combine the two) so this book was perfect for me. It focuses more on economic issues than anything I've read in the past, too, so it wasn't just retreading old ground. Best of all, at the very end it
David Duncan
Aug 29, 2014 David Duncan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all adults and children interested in stamps
Recommended to David by: goodreads
Shelves: first-reads
This is my thirty -eighth book that I have received and read from Goodreads. This book was full of England's history thru the stamps, from the time period they were printed. The author Chris West did a excellent job of compiling all the history and the highlights of that time period. With England's first printing and use of the first stamp thru the thirty-six used today. It was really interesting the parts women played in the history of stamps. Mr. West did a excellent job of researching the pas ...more
Lauren Walters
I received this book as a First Reads book. I don't read many history books, but I added this to my to-read list because I'd like to learn more about history throughout the world. This book was very well-written and connected the stamps to their times in history brilliantly. You don't think too much about stamps reflecting the current state of affairs in a country at the time. Reading this book helped open my eyes to how something so overlooked as a stamp can give so much information. Obviously, ...more
Cori Edgerton
I am British at heart so this book caught my attention right away. I thought it was great idea to explore Great Britain's history through postage stamps. It also shows propaganda at its finest! My favorite stamps would have to be The "Seahorse Stamp and the British Empire Exhibition 1924 stamps.
Christina Dudley
A pleasant read using 36 different stamps in chronological order to discuss various moments/movements in British history. Depending on your own interests, some chapters will be more intriguing than others. The full-color stamps are lovely.
A very charming history told through the perspective of an everyday item. Quirky, informative, and entertaining; what more can one ask?
Jim Mann
When I was younger, I collected stamps (and I still have my old stamp collection) so this book tying stamps to history was intriguing. It uses stamps as a starting point. In some chapters, the history ties closely to the stamps. In others, they are related because they stamps show an historical person or event. And in yet others, the stamp is really used as a representative of an era, as a starting point for discussing that era. Overall, it's a fine short history of Britain from the mid-Victoria ...more
This is a quick and fun read for the British and Philatelic fan. This book has chapters which cover British history starting with the age of Victoria to the present. Each chapter is prefaced by a stamp that is representative of the time and the history of the British postage and creates the tone for the history of the time.
You could say this book is based on a gimmick, but I think it's an effective gimmick. In 36 brief essays, West explains how postage stamps came to be, why they matter, what the images on them represent, how Britain has changed, and what Britain thinks is worth celebrating. It's an interesting juxtaposition of history, technology, culture, sports, and everyday life.

I don't think a reader with a vast knowledge of stamps and/or British history would find this book interesting, but I'm not an expert
This is an informative and entertaining book. What book of British history as narrated by stamps wouldn't be?!
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I grew up in a country village north of London. As a boy I filled endless notebooks with stories - not all of them finished! As a young man I played in various (unsuccessful) bands, then worked in the City of London. I studied philosophy and economics as a 'mature' student (though I wasn't very mature). After leaving uni I went backpacking in China, and wrote a book about that adventure which came ...more
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