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Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination
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Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  300 ratings  ·  31 reviews
With his characteristic enthusiasm and erudition, Peter Ackroyd follows his acclaimed London: A Biography with an inspired look into the heart and the history of the English imagination. To tell the story of its evolution, Ackroyd ranges across literature and painting, philosophy and science, architecture and music, from Anglo-Saxon times to the twentieth-century. Consider ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Anchor (first published 1993)
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Iosephus Bibliothecarius
Albion traces ideas, images and patterns across the centuries to consider what it means to be English. Any Anglophile will enjoy the many and varied cultural references linked within Ackroyd's dense but fascinating text. Beginning and ending with Englishmen I admire (historian the Venerable Bede (d. 735) and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (d. 1958)), these two disparate personalities were brought together in one memorable statement: "The embrace of present and past time, in which English antiqu ...more
Aneece
Irresponsible, scattershot cultural criticism. The book is vaguely chronological, and composed of discrete essays on a theme. This suits Ackroyd's discursive, wayward style; even when he wanders off on a tangent, he can only go as far as the end of the essay. The level of criticism varies from illuminating and insightful, to the equivalent of jumping up and down in front of a monument and pointing. Even then, he's usually pointing at something worthy of attention.

Here's an example of him at his
...more
Steve Luttrell
1) There's been a continuity of themes running through English imaginative works since Caedmon was in office.
2) English imaginative works are made up of everybody else's.
Hashim Alsughayer
I got to say that after spending four years studying English literature, coming back to this wonderful subject was a refreshing thing to do. I'm a huge fan of Ackroyd's work and got used to his writing style, one that does not necessarily relate to any chronological methods.

This books simply provides only a taste of what scholars consider the English Imagination to be. From the Romantic's point of view to even the Victorians, Ackroyd discusses them all and showcases what different Englishmen (if
...more
Candy Wood
The publisher labels this book "History" on the back cover, with a blurb on the front calling it cultural anthropology. While it's certainly not a chronological history of the English imagination, it draws primarily on literary history, making all sorts of intriguing (even if forced) connections. As the subtitle, "The Origins of the English Imagination," suggests, there's more about the Anglo-Saxons and the medieval period than later times--like many history professors, Ackroyd barely gets to th ...more
Alec
I was going to rate this one three stars for its glaring lack of attention to the twentieth century, but it convinced me to start learning Old English. Begrudging fourth star, hmph.

Ackroyd's goal is to trace the continuity of various key elements of "the English imagination". While the book presents plenty of fascinating ideas and opinions, and both its depth and its breadth satisfied me, I feel like Ackroyd pulled his punch, big time. The changes of the twentieth century offered plenty of chall
...more
Michael
I will admit it: there were many references and various other things that I simply "did not get", not having been as studied as Peter Ackroyd in English history.

However, instead of this putting me off of the book, it whetted my appetite, if you will, leaving me to realize how much there is to be known about the cultural history of this great nation.

The author knows what he is talking about; the sources, authors, events, places etc. mentioned as well as the extensive bibliography in the back of
...more
A
A lot of research clearly went into this book, which aims to trace various subjects and motifs throughout 1000 years of British art, literature, and music. This intriguing premise, however, outstrips its end result, which is superficial and verges on circular logic. A fair summary of the book might be something like "Britons are influenced by the sea, and appreciate alliteration, and experience the other-wordly, and enjoy contrasts, and oh gardens are great too! Since always! Because it's Englan ...more
Claudia Gray
Reading this book is like sitting next to the smartest person you've ever met while that person is blazingly, roaringly drunk. There are countless fascinating facts, inspired connections, and brilliant reflections mixed in with a whole lot of rambling and some statements that are downright bizarre. I thought it was well worth reading, but I think Ackroyd's stronger ideas and considerable erudition would have benefited from a more cohesive structure. The wandering, almost stream-of-consciousness ...more
David
This book has a format similar to another book I read more recently: "The New Spaniards" by John Hooper - a collection of short chapters, each devoted to a specific aspect of "the English Imagination"/"Spanish life", respectively. The success of Hooper's book, in which each chapter was fascinating in its own right, only serves to emphasize the relative weakness of the execution of the concept in Ackroyd's case. A prolific author, he never manages to make this book come alive, in my opinion. A di ...more
Marjorie Hakala
I finished it! After a good six or seven weeks of reading. Fascinating book that raises at least as many questions as it answers. Sometimes Ackroyd's assertions are a little hard to buy into, and I would have appreciated a little more contrast--when he talked about English preoccupation with the sea, I had to wonder how it was any different from, say, Melville's American preoccupation with the sea. Still, he brings up a lot of topics that are really interesting to think about and feed into futur ...more
Brian Davis
Apr 02, 2007 Brian Davis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anglophiles, lexicographers
Ackroyd is bold with his assertions about English cultural identity, continuity, and historical development, but he's mighty convincing, and even if he's not, he's entertaining. From Alfred to Chaucer to Johnson to Shakespeare, the author gives much attention to the tension between the pagan and the pious, the lewd and the shameful, the campy and the stoic. He also strays from his thesis of continuity to explore how influences from Europe (France, Italy, the Classical World) affected English lit ...more
Amanda
Fascinating and detailed analysis of the cultural continuum of Britain, from Beowulf to TS Eliot and medieval motets to Vaughan Williams. It covered a greater scope than I expected (art, architecture, humour, forgery(!), you name it), and I bought in to the hypotheses to a degree which surprised me. Packed full of supporting examples fro original sources, which is great if you want to do further research; I found, again surprisingly, that I was familiar with the majority of them already (when th ...more
Jacque
Kinda dry but great points and connections!
Susan
I've read a half dozen or so books by Peter
Ackroyd and never tire of his lively style and
command of historical fact. Specifically I have
read his books about London and about the Thames River, so I was reading this as a sort of English Trilogy. While the author wanders
off more into conjecture here, it is still based on
biographical and historical data and his theories of Englishness do seem - like all
generalizations - to have some truth!
Jen Meegan
Jan 18, 2008 Jen Meegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anglophiles, philosophers, creatives
A lush, dizzingly informative, poetic tribute to and history of the English imagination. Sometimes hard to follow but always fascinating, this book had me hooked from start to finish. Albion will renew your appreciation for the sheer amount of creative energy that continues to flow out of this relatively small island kingdom.
Richard Thomas
It's a very Peter Ackroyd book with an eclectic array of his interests and passions - primarily London but also the imagination and vision of poets. Not a book to read at a sitting but one to go in and out of as one's interest dictates.
Liz Jacobson
Mar 04, 2008 Liz Jacobson is currently reading it
Exhaustively researched and very compelling, though he may be guilty of over-reaching a bit. Ackroyd has also written several novels, and I am curious to see what such a meticulous historian does with non-fiction.
Morgan Sennhauser
Super dense, to the point I don't know if I really got everything out of it I should have. But! Did have a lot of good insight into how we came to find value in the elements of narrative that we do.
Wes Christensen
I loved this book. I loved the way it was written and divided into sections, I loved the sensibility of the author and how he chose his subjects to write about.
Emma  Kaufmann
Ackroyd is obviously very knowledgable on his subject but why does he present this tome in such a turgid manner. Reads like an achingly dull PhD thesis.
Shonna Froebel
Very badly edited.
Prolixity of author somewhat much.
Found it a bit tough going in spots.
Definitely not what I expected.
Pat
Aug 22, 2008 Pat rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
The venerable Bede and more.

England's people and history. I love this book.
Colin
An overpoweringly vast and windy account of the entirety of English culture.
Katharine Holden
Far-ranging and interesting. Sometimes I wished for a bit more explanation.
e
May 30, 2010 e marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2010-nook
finally found an epub version of this at kobo for my new nook! whew!
Chris Mason
hard work... I gave up and will return at a (much) later date.
Sue Black
I wanted to like this so hard. And I did, but just barely a little.
Velvetink
Jun 28, 2011 Velvetink marked it as to-read
Recommended by William C. 29.june.2011.

have ebook version
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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
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography Hawksmoor The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography

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“The embrace of present and past time, in which English antiquarianism becomes a form of alchemy, engenders a strange timelessness. It is as if the little bird which flew through the Anglo-Saxon banqueting hall, in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, gained the outer air and became the lark ascending in Vaughan Williams's orchestral setting. The unbroken chain is that of English music itself.” 1 likes
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