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A Short History Of England

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  32 reviews
G.K. Chesterton was one of the towering figures of British literature in the early twentieth century. A man of massive size, massive personality, and massive appetite, Chesterton famous personality, dress, and personality gave rise to an eponymous adjective: Chestertonian. Although he is renowned for the Father Brown detective series, Chesterton also wrote volumes of nonfi ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1917)
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Having panned a recent "short history". I sought a good "short history." I stumbled across G. K. Chesterton's A Short History of England, which I tried because of previous experience with his writings.

I was disappointed. The book is incorrectly titled. It should have been "A Short Commentary on the History of England," though at almost 400 pages it's hardly short. Second, I found it shared the same faults as A Short History of the World, that of the author's opinions flowing freely throughout.
As much as I love the works of G K Chesterton, I am forced to admit that A Short History Of England is not one of his best works. Chesterton just does not do well on more lengthy, sustained polemics. It is only when he can break his work down into individual essays, such as in Orthodoxy and Heretics that he shines.

Perhaps this work is best titled Some Thoughts on British Social History and Religion. He skips from Richard II to the 18th century Whigs, then zig-zags back to the Middle Ages until
The least factual based history book I've ever read. Beautifully written and very poetic story of history and perspective.
Chesterton’s brief history is a secondary source, at best, or more likely even tertiary. Either way, it is farthest away from being a primary source narrative as you can get. It relies less on historical dates than it does upon historical theory. Which is simultaneously its greatest strength and weakness as a piece of historical narrative.

Where his ideas do go well are his theories as to the grand sweeping changes that passed over England from Roman times up until the previous turn of the centur
This is called a "Short History," but it is more of a commentary on England's history and ruminations on the concept of Englishness rather than a pure chronology. Chesterton takes a rather romaticized view of the absolute monarchy of olden times and naturally gets increasingly more political as his history nears his own time period of World War I. It's an intriguing look at England written in an engaging style not lacking in humor.

A few interesting quotes so far:

"Magna Charta was not a step towa
Ruth Sophia
Not your typical history

The name of this book I believe causes people issues, so I will look at what this book is not & what it is.

--What this book is not This is not a textbook. In fact, it's not a history book in the common way - there are no dates -and the author assumes a basic familiarity with English history in his readership.

The easily misunderstood title prevents the work from achieving a 4 star rank.

If you do not have a basic understanding of English history, this book is probably
David Murphy
Chesterton assumes you have an intimate knowledge of English history from the Roman world to WWI and proceeds to write in rather sweeping generalizations about the spirit of each age and transitions between. Even though I didn't catch every historical reference, I still enjoyed reading this simply because of Chesterton's beautiful prose, startling insights, and ability to turn a memorable phrase.
Graham Tapper
The title is a bit of a misnomer: it isn't really a "history" but more the author's comments on historical events; a sort of why and how. Chesterton expects his readers to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of English history so, if you were hoping that this brief work would tell you all you needed to know, you would be disappointed.

If you do have a reasonable knowledge then this makes an interesting read. I confess that History was not my strongest subject at school but I realise now, throug
Shawn Jack
I have some friends and acquaintances that really think a lot of G.K. Chesterton. So I thought that I would read a few of his books. This was my second book by him (after The Man Who Was Thursday). I am told that he was the C.S. Lewis of his generation and that he had written many profound things. So I took up this book with some interest in deepening my understanding of English History with G.K.'s guiding colossal genius. I was disappointed.

I'm not sure who his audience was, but he assumes that
Evan Hays
It is rare that I give a Chesterton anything less than five stars, but this one was not his best. I still enjoyed it a lot and am encouraged to keep studying English history more after reading it, but my main problem with it is that he sets out to write a short/popular/people's history of England, and goes on to write something that you have to know an awful lot about English history to understand. I have taken several British history courses and would not consider myself a light-weight, but the ...more
Phil Chapman
I liked a short history of england. Chestertons main idea is the disenfranchisement of the working classes and the basic problems of aristocracy. He makes the point that monarchy has some pluses even when it has abuses, that the torturings of a monarchy are mostly towards the torturers, that is the aristocracy.
Normally chesterton takes it easy on the english artistocracy saying that they are basically easy going and good hearted. In this book though, he paints there past as dark and makes them
Joel Adolph
Chesterton's "A Short History of England" is not so much a summary of English history, as it is a commentary on contemporary historical theory, and theories and methods of historical research.

Chesterton demonstrates a great deal of skepticism towards isolated written records, and the limitations of archaeology. He argues instead for a psychological view of history that treats legends and popular traditions as a truer record -- if not of fact, than at least of sentiment.

By virtue of this method,
Nicholas Maulucci
sorry, but this book was boring. except for the dissertation on guilds, the forerunners of the modern trade unions, the book was quite dry. it was written by Chesterton an Englishman, and I now remember that he commented on how the United states thought George iii a cruel chap, but that the taxes levied against us weren't that bad, even less than in England and they were necessary. and that is why we became independent and have nothing in common with the English except for the language...most of ...more
Bryana Johnson
Chesterton’s highly opinionated summary of the history of England is both funny and disorderly in a masterful, Chestertonian manner. Much poetic license is taken with the narrative of the British Isles and Chesterton runs off on regular rabbit-trails, but some very enduring ideas are contained herein. I felt I wasn’t quite knowledgeable enough to really get everything out of this, and was painfully aware of some awkward gaps in my British history. The section that I found most helpful was Cheste ...more
Chesterton has some fascinating thoughts on the motivating factors behind the English rebellions and monarchy. He is decidedly catholic, and the perspective is new to me, having heard mostly the reformed viewpoint in the past. Altogether a good read.
As others have mentioned, this work, despite it's lofty claims in the opening preface, is much closer to a collection of musings on historiography and English history than it is to a 'people's history' of any variety. The flow of the writing predictably follows Chesterton's style in his other non-fiction, primarily religious writings. In the context of spiritual contemplation, such musings make sense, but unfortunately they don't translate well to historical pursuits. The final product is somewh ...more
At first, it was like, the God/Catholicism stuff gets in the way of the fun observations of myth-making in history. But at the Spanish Armada and Cromwell, it becomes the clearest discussion of English history from a pro-Catholic pov I've ever read. His opinions about French, Spanish, and German influence on the course of English history are bracing.

Chesterton has the social consciousness promised by this "people's"ish history, railing against the bourgeousie and the aristocracy for the Tudor pl
Rick Davis
Chesterton is interested in tracing some very particular ideas throughout the history of England, and as such is not telling the stories of English history that he believes ought to be known by every English schoolboy. Fortunately in the last couple of years I've read a lot of the Jacob Abbott biographies on the English kings and listened to George Grant's lectures on modernity. Thus, I got a lot more out of this book this time around.

Chesterton is simply amazing on the Middle Ages, but starts t
It's not so much a literal survey history of England as Chesterton's comments about the significance of England's history. As usual, Chesterton is an incurable medievalist and seems to think the answer to Capitalism (which he decidedly opposes) and Socialism (with which he sympathizes but thinks unworkable) is some kind of return to guilds, tying rural people to land, and common property. Interestingly, he shows Richard II as the key turning point in English history, vice the Tudors or Stuarts c ...more
October 17th finished A Short History of England by G. K. Chesterton. A bit easier to get through than Macaulay, and covers a broader time frame of history. (Starting with the Romans and ending during WWI.) This book helped me fill in some of the gaps in my English history knowledge, as well as touching on a lot of the basics I was already familiar with. It was very helpful to get it all in line, so to speak. Also, Chesterton is an excellent writer, which a writer always ought to be if he can po ...more
Marcin Bajer
I was mislead by the title: to appreciate this book, one needs to know the history of England first. While enjoying the narrative and author's wit, I struggled to keep reading. I wouldn't finish the book without looking up names and facts on Wikipedia, which easily doubled the reading time. Still, there are valuable insights in the content, and some of the observations about politics are applicable even now. Interesting read after all, but I am looking forward to Chesterton's other books. I do n ...more
As another reviewer put it, this isn't a primary or even a secondary, but a tertiary source of history. Chesterton assumes the reader has a good working knowledge of English history and gives his interpretation of why things happened the way they did. I found myself referring to H.E. Marshall's Our Island Story a lot when I needed the context of his remarks. Definitely worthwhile reading.
Joshua Nuckols
Some parts of this book I absolutely love, but his section on the Puritans is sooo wrong. His throwing jabs at every Calvinist hiding under the table can get annoying. His history of the early years of England was grand. Alfred and the Barbarians, Feudalism, and the invasion of William the Conqueror were other high points of the book.
Jose Gaona
Como su título indica, ésta es una breve historia de Inglaterra que, pese a su extensión, está más cargada de opiniones que de hechos. Tampoco es un problema si uno sabe a lo que se enfrenta, pero los amantes de la historias rigurosas no encontrarán aquí un nicho cómodo en el que refugiarse.
The Chestertonian (Sarah G)
An interesting read. Probably better for those with a detailed knowledge of the facts of English history, since Chesterton seems to assume such knowledge, and proceeds to an interpretation of the facts.
Interesting take on major events in English history. I appreciate it more when I read it in conjunction with Our Island Story. He skips over Mary and Elizabeth completely, though. Just a brief mention.
Finished at the outbreak of WWWI, Chesterton's witty and eloquent work isn't so much a 'history' as it is Chesterton pontificating on the English national spirit. Fantastic and infinitely quotable.
Inna Shpitzberg
July 11
A Short History of E... Inna Shpitzberg gave 4 of 5 stars to:
A Short History of England
by G.K. Chesterton
bookshelves: 2010-read
read in July, 2010

Skylar Burris
Mar 13, 2015 Skylar Burris marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
Abandoned. I usually love Chesterton, but I decided not to finish this one. It’s not as amusing as Chesterton usually is and seems to be slow plodding so far.
Lesha Symons ervin
I loved the historical attributes of this book. Very well written, and received by a lover of history.
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
More about G.K. Chesterton...
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