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Great Tales from English History, Vol 1
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Great Tales from English History, Vol 1 (Great Tales from English History #1)

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  855 ratings  ·  110 reviews
With insight, humor and fascinating detail, Lacey brings brilliantly to life the stories that made England--from Ethelred the Unready to Richard the Lionheart, the Venerable Bede to Piers the Ploughman.
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 3rd 2004 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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In questo primo volume di Great Tales from English History Robert Lacey racconta la storia Inglese dal 7150 a.C al 1381 d.C. Non si concentra solo sui momenti cruciali e sui grandi uomini che hanno fatto la storia. Cioè, lo fa, ma con humor e con attenzione al dettaglio poco conosciuto, che rendono quindi i già ben noti avvenimenti (come, ad esempio, la conquista normanna o la firma della Magna Carta) degni di nuova curiosità. Dicevo che Lacey non si concentra solo sulle grandi storie. Infatti m ...more
Some highlights:

* Why do so few post-ice-age ancient human remains survive? Some archaeologists say it’s because relatives ate them.

* The Greek navigator Pytheas “almost certainly sailed around the [British] islands and was the first to describe the shape of Britain as a wonky triangle.”

* Early feminist hero: King Alfred’s daughter Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, who built ten walled communities and captured Derby and Leicester from the Vikings. Maybe celebrities will start naming their girl
History is always more interesting when it's told as a story, and Lacey approaches his topic from exactly that angle. He presents the history of England in a series of short vignettes, each focusing on an individual. Most of these individuals actually existed, but Lacey isn't afraid to tackle legendary personalities as well, with known facts contrasted against the legends and the impact those legends had.

Having so recently emerged from reading the latest two volumes of George RR Martin's Song of
This was a very accessible volume. The book is divided into short stories, chronologically for the most part, about the characters that make history. Legend is treated firmly, but sympathetically, and everywhere that primary sources can be quoted they certainly are.

I found this book both entertaining and informative. The bibliography in the back was quite extensive, and I was rather happy to see that it included some of the books that I've been using for reference.

I'd recommend this to anyone w
Cynthia Egbert
I cannot recommend these three volumes of work highly enough. History really is about the stories, in the end.
SO much fun! Lacey is one of those rare historians who is both informative and entertaining, and his brief vignettes of the great characters in English history gracefully debunk the legends and provide even more diverting true stories.
Stephanie (
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Last summer, while staying in a friend's apartment, I happened upon this book. Since I didn't finish it while there, I purchased my own copy of this fun and fascinating read. Okay, I can see you already searching for the phone number of the man with the net to come get me. A history book? Is she mad? Didn't we suffer enough in school? Believe me, I know, but before you make that call, hear me out, because this book has everything your 7th-grade history class lacked:
I bought a copy of Great Tales From English History because having been a resident of this fine land for 4.5 years I felt my historical knowledge was lacking. I've walked past Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square countless times but had no real idea what he actually did apart from "something to do with Napoleon". You can't sneeze in this country without hitting a street, building or tree named after Queen Victoria or Prince Albert but again, what were they? And why do the French hate the English ...more
I'm tempted to give this five stars, since I enjoyed it so much. But, I like to reserve that for near-perfect or otherwise uniquely powerful books, and this one was just a whole lot of fun, so we'll call it 4.5 stars.
Anyway, I can't think of a better way to brush up on your AP European History, and learn some things you didn't know before. Lacey does a fantastic job of re-telling the stories from English history in light of new research and discoveries; setting the record straight in some cases,
John Briggs
This book is history by vignette, a compliment that should be understood from the title. Extremely lengthy books have been written about some of the people and topics Mr. Lacey covers here in just a few short pages. These are "tales" of history, slices that give a lightning quick background on its subjects. Oftentimes I found myself wanting to know more about a subject, but I don't hold that against the author -- theses slices of history are meant to provide quick insights into the great figures ...more
The title is correct: these are great TALES from English history. It doesn't mean you should believe them! The author has, at best, a passing respect for scholarship and a distant acquaintance with fact checking. He takes the position that it doesn't matter, they're still fun. And they are.
Even though I have read many books on medieval England, I still found this work to be quite informative. It was written to entertain as well as educate, which it did. It covers a huge span of time but it didn't feel like he skipped major events. It included snippets of primary sources as well. While reading, one learns about the origins of King Arthur, how the Bayeux Tapestry changed over the years, who invented our current dating system (using A.D.), and who Robin Hood could have been. The mona ...more
Enjoyed every moment of this quick little read! The Anglophile in me couldn't put it down. Lots of fascinating historical tidbits in here.
Jeni Enjaian
This book was exactly what I needed after Gettysburg. I loved the British narrator and the fact that it was narrated by the author.
I also enjoyed the format. It was perfect for how I normally read audiobooks. (I tend to get interrupted.) Listening to this audiobook made me want to book a trip right now. (All books about England usually have the same effect.) I enjoyed this book tremendously and wish that the other audiobooks I had checked out from the library had been in better condition so I c
Delightful! A cornucopia of interesting and surprising tales from English history in its early viking days to the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II. What is so fantastic about this book is that is not merely a collection of facts and retelling of events. Each chapter discloses a particular period in British history and reads like a small short story. The author should also be credited for his storytelling style: he writes each piece with whimsy, humor, and precision. I can't say that I was ...more
Beginning with the Cheddar man of 7150 BC, and through the conquest of Rome, to the invaders of Viking's-Angles-Saxons-Norman's, to the witty Geoffrey Chaucer, Joan of Arc, to the years of Richard III and the Tudor years, Pocahontas, Captain Cook, the madness of King George III, author Fanny Burney's barbaric mastectomy, World War I, Dunkirk, the King who abdicated for love, and finishing with a story from 1953 about DNA. These are examples of some of the stories.
The reader is given a di
Iosephus Bibliothecarius
When I first saw this book I knew it had potential; to me, presentation has a lot to do with my overall love for a book and this one is beautiful. After checking it out from the West Jordan library when I worked there, I found Mr. Lacey's writing to be exciting, interesting, and informative. In 2007, I set to reading the whole thing and I'm glad I did. The book presents short stories about moments from English history that you may or may not have heard of.

From the introduction: "Brief though ea
Tania P
A very interesting read. Following a chronological approach to summarizing England's early history, Lacey certainly draws you in with writing that feels very much like storytelling. I enjoyed learning the origins of certain words, traditions and expressions, as well as gaining some insight into the good and not-so-good royalty during the timeframe covered by the book. Looking forward to reading Vol 2.
Heading to England for the first time and having previously learned about some of the more famous historical aspects of British history--- 'War of Roses', Henry the VIII, Richard the Lion heart, Elizabeth I and so on, I wanted a book that would provide a good introduction for a more complete history of Britain. I thought this book provided that foundation I was looking for to build my future Brit history readings upon. A good read to get a generalized history of Britain's monarchs and significan ...more
I've read quite a few books about the history of England, but I enjoyed this nonetheless. It was kind of a refresher actually, and while reading the short chapters I recalled details from previous texts of the same subject. Still, I enjoyed the meandering through England's history and revisited many figures I know well.
Justine Olawsky
We read this series before we went to London last year. If I remember correctly, Volumes I & II were very good and engaging and Volume III was considerably less so. If you are looking for an episodic approach to English history, this is a good place to start.
Pete Friend
Read this one in two days, extremely compelling, loved the level of detail and the choice of anecdotal information. have taken two books out from library by same author and could have taken half a dozen. really glad to have stumbled across him
I highly recommend this book, it is a very interesting way to learn about history. I really liked how it connected what was happening in a certain time to other things at different times (so things in the past that led to the event or things that happened because of the event or things we still do or say because of the event).
There were a few things I wished it would have gone into more, or at all, but I was pleased for the most part.
There were a few parts, mainly about the American war, that I
Though this book is nothing more than a short, concise overview of English history from the prehistory until 1381 AD, I still had a blast reading this. Sure, the history isn't really spoken of in an in-depth way, but then I'm sure you shouldn't expect that if you see the magnitude of events that Lacey tries to cover in a relatively thin book!

It's not a dry book. It's funny, full of interesting little details. There's something here for everyone. As an orientation for English history, it is very
Daryn Hardy
A straight forward telling in short vignettes of characters and events from early history to late medieval times in Britain. The book is probably aimed at an American teen audience, but having said that I did learn a few little nuggets I didn't know about my home country, such as 'Elmer, the Flying Monk', leaping off the top of his abby and gliding 200m before crashing, many more centuries before the Wright Bros. efforts at manned flight. A good book to dip into if you have a few minutes to kill ...more
Tim Ward
Really enjoyed this quick romp. A serious alternative to 1066 and All That. Useful and entertaining if you've read quite a bit of popular English history, but wouldn't mind a quick check to see where you might like to explore next, and has a vast list of further reading in the back. It's a real skate through. Queen Elizabeth the 1st and both World Wars get only an anecdote or two. But the panorama of gradually decreasing cruelty (from an extraordinarily repellent start) and lust for power is abs ...more
I loved the first book in this series. It is wonderfully written and brilliantly read. I cannot wait to get started on the next two in the series! Anyone who loves history, especially England should read these.It is definitely going to add so much to our trip to England.
I read this every year. I will read it to my children. Lacey has everything it takes to be a great historian. Belief in God, but willing to point out flaws in the Catholic church. Love of his country, but able to condemn its tyrants. I think my favorite thing about this book is its theme that individuals can make a great difference in the course of history. Whether its philosophy, religion, government or art, this book chronicles some of the most important figures of early England. He writes sho ...more
I've already read the other books in Lacey's series, but I'd somehow missed the first one. Finally got to it. This series is great for getting people into English history. The stories are kept pretty short and offer a good entry point. There are references and suggested titles for further reading if you're interested in a specific story. I read a lot of historical fiction and nonfiction set in medieval England, so I knew most of these stories already, but it's also a good refresher course if you ...more
This is a non-fictional account of British history from the beginnings until the decoding of the DNA in 1953. Instead of a linear recapitulation of Britain's history, it's more of a telling of short episodes in its history. Flashlights into the past, so to speak.

I was given this book recently. I love English history up until Edwardian times. So almost all of the book was interesting and fun to read. But then, just on cue, the first story I read which I did not like that much was from 1912... Fo
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Robert Lacey is a British historian noted for his original research, which gets him close to - and often living alongside - his subjects. He is the author of numerous international bestsellers.

After writing his first works of historical biography, Robert, Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh, Robert wrote Majesty, his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II. Published in 1977, Majesty remains
More about Robert Lacey...
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