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The Birth of Britain (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples #1)

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  1,092 ratings  ·  126 reviews
The narrative commences 55 years before the birth of Christ, when Julius Caesar famously 'turned his gaze upon Britain' and concludes with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Along the way we encounter a plethora of closely observed characters, all of whom breathe life into the page: William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great, Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc. The beginnings of ...more
448 pages
Published 2002 (first published 1956)
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Xio
Picked this up this morning off the shelf of my current roommate. I was awake earlier than usual due to my older son's Sunday Pancake Ambitions (he's 12 and the chef). Not that he requires supervision, I just like being around him happily puttering about in the kitchen cooking for his family, right?

So, I began the book without imagining I'd become so immediately and thoroughly engrossed in it. I cannot put it down (well, I put it down to check in here and write this, I guess).

Begun in 1933 (and
...more
Bryan
I originally picked this book up because I read that Churchill was inspired by Gibbon, whose Decline and Fall is one of the most amazing works I've ever read. I have to say that, so far (this the first volume) I can definitely see a similarity between the two works, both in terms of the history itself and the writing style.

I can also see how Churchill received a Nobel Prize in literature. Like Gibbon, Churchill's prose, while always engaging and expansive becomes, when he reaches a subject or a
...more
Tony
A HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLES: Volume 1: The Birth of Britain. (1956; this ed. 2003, The Folio Society). Sir Winston Churchill. ****.
I first read this volume of the four-volume history when I first joined the Book-of-the-Month-Club in 1960. It was a freebie for joining. Back then, I was really ambitious and read all four volumes straight through. Now, I plan to only read this volume to remind me of the taste of Sir Winston’s prose. In all, it’s a basic work that should be on every h
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Josh
For a glimpse into Britain’s past, I recently selected “A History of the English Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain.” This book, the first in a series of four, comes from the pen of Winston Churchill. Authored intermittently during periods of relative inactivity, before and after World War II, this first volume offers a chronologically sequenced history of the British Isles. Most of the text summarizes the reigns of the known British rulers prior to the Norman Conquest and expansively retell ...more
Immen
Dec 28, 2010 Immen is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Normally I am all pissy about nonfiction, because the prose is watery and/or in bad taste, and the content density is low and/or obscured by the stupid author's stupid agenda. (Fiction mainly pisses me off when the author can actually write, and then decides to write endlessly about his sexual dysfunction, D H LAWRENCE.) This is probably because I choose to read nonfiction by alive people, instead of awesome people from the greatest generation, who are awesome and not stupid, and love their subj ...more
Ray Campbell
I was reluctant to begin this one for which I now feel foolish. In my mind, Churchill is so strongly associated with World War II, that though I know he was a historian, I imagined his historical prose would sound like the radio broadcast addresses he made to rally the nation of Britain during the war. I know, I'm really silly. This book is a masterpiece of narrative history. Churchill is comprehensive in his coverage, easy to read and generous with interesting details and connections.

This volum
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George
printed 1956...
Narrated by Christian Rodska 2006 17 hours.

Read at least book one in College. I will remember when I finish the audio versions of what I originally read/ My favorite Professor who had such wonderful courses as Rebels, Robbers and Rogues! His best courses were summer and winter break, Since I didn't have anywhere to go, it was always easier to stay at school, and got to take all of his fun courses. One of those was a history of England based on these writings.

Goatville9
Churchill is a fantastic writer. His command of the English language - written and spoken - is equaled by few. This volume covers the period from the Roman invasion to the start of the Tudor period. While the succession of kings - generally by violent means - can get overwhelming he explains the important trend and significance before losing the reader. The Roman period, the history behind the characters in the movie Braveheart, the Plantegenant dynasty, and the War of the Roses are the most int ...more
Stephen
I love Churchill and find him to be perhaps the most fascinating person to ever live, so I read this eagerly. It didn't quite live up to my hopes.

The good. The prose is excellent, as I would expect. I loved that it revealed a lot about Churchill's bias in its attention to some things (Joan of Arc gets a lot of play) and virtually ignored others (plague anyone?). That's part of the beauty of it though. I read it less as a history, as should you, and more as a glimpse into a few stories about Bri
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Dawn
I heart Winston Churchill, let's just get that out of the way. He was a total bad-ass when the world was in need of a total bad-ass. But he could also string together a coherent thought, unlike more modern bad-asses. I know some people won't agree with me when I say he was an uber-genius, but those people would be wrong. He began his History before the war began and finished it long after, so it was a labor of love.

To begin with, this really needs to be retitled "A History of How Splendiforous t
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Michael
Winston Churchill was without doubt the greatest man to live in the 2nd millennium A.D. When the whole world was either neutral, allied with or dominated by Nazi Germany, only England stood against it. England was ready to fight but needed someone to provide the leadership and Churchill, the right man and the right time, provided it. It could so easily have gone the other way. Churchill, the son of and English father and American mother was all English but always believed that those nations whic ...more
Theresa
I think this is a pretty good primer to the entire chronological history of Britain. The early chapters went a little over my head. Especially the chapters about the Romans and Vikings. I have never been very interested in those periods anyway. A lot of what I read in this book I read in other books as well. But it was good to read about the entire history up to Henry Tudor in place to get a real sense of how events unfolded. One thing I tried to keep in mind, however, no matter how well Winston ...more
Jls
"History shall treat me well, for I intend to write it."'- WSC

No matter who the writer, and no his politics, nationality, philosophy, etc. it would take an excellent writer with a superior imagination; an enemy of freedom; or a moron to to treat Churchill as anything but well-indeed as one of the Greatest of the "Greatest Generation," as anything less than "well." And to depict his human weaknesses, which make Churchill all the more inspirational, indomitable, and indefatigable, and incredible a
...more
Bryce Lowry
As a work of Churchill's, it is naturally a brilliant text. Not only is it a fascinating history, beginning with pre-historic Britain, but it is beautifully written.

The scope of this book is staggering; Churchill covers the important events that take place and shape Britain from the pre-Roman Celtic era to the end of the medieval ages. We get to see the vicious Celtic stands against the invading Romans, the desperate circumstances created by the fall of the Roman Empire, and the establishment o
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Richard Olney
What i enjoyed the most about this book was the way it was written. The edition i read was first published in 1956, the world was recovering from the Second World War, and, at least according to Sir Winston, Britain was still great. Especially after the Conqueror, this is a "Kings and Queens" history, a military history and unquestionably a history of England. The author is looking for clues to how Britain would become at the time of writing in the distant past; he makes much more of Magna Carta ...more
Tim
Winston friggin' Churchill! Seriously, this guy must have hired people to just do great stuff in his name. There's no way someone could accomplish so much in one lifetime. This series of British history was begun in the 30s, put on hold for about a decade while Mr. Churchill beat up the nazis, and finished afterward. He has such a fun writing style. He can be as over the top as enteretaining. To quote from Chapter Five "England" about the end of the Roman occupation and beginning of Anglo-Saxon ...more
Jaclyn
I had tried in the past to read this first volume of Churchill's A HIstory Of The English-Speaking Peoples, but I was only able to get about two thirds of the way through on my first attempt. After seeing the Churchill War Rooms in London a few months ago and imagining the Prime Minister escaping from his war responsibilities into Merrie Olde England, I was inspired to give it another try.

The Birth Of Britain, as I said, is the first of four volumes in Churchill's definitive history of England a
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Lance Houser
As someone else pointed out, this work would be more aptly named something like "A History of the Government of England." Of course it is the first volume of a four volume history. Mostly it is a chronicle of kings, nobles and their fights.

As far as the English speaking part goes, the history begins long before even Old-English was spoken in Britain. If you are looking for something about the history and formation of English language and culture, this is not the book for you. It skips over any
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Troi
I read this book because I wanted to fill in the gaps in my knowledge on the period from Roman occupation of Britain though King Henry the VIII for a course I teach. The sections on the Roman occupation and the Viking invasions were exactly what I was looking for. After that, however, I found myself getting a little distracted as the book plowed through one monarchy after another, though I did learn a lot about the kings. I think if more socio-culutral history had been included, it would have be ...more
John
On a scale of 1 - 5

Clarity/Consistency 2 - I found myself getting confused numerous times because on numerous occasions rather than outright say things, he would make the reader read between the lines, or put things in terms that did not make sense to me. Overall structure was mostly but not totally sequential.

Rationality 5 - I found no fallacies.

Creativity 4 - He makes the reader read between the lines, which was quite witty at times (when it made sense to me).

Narrative 4 - There was a fair a
...more
Noah
A very enjoyable read, though not necessarily a good history book. Churchill is a wonderful author with a deep understanding of the formation of his country's government, but he is most certainly not writing from an un-biased perspective. In my opinion, this is one of the things that makes his book so enjoyable, though may be difficult if taken as the ready truth. Further, the title would have been better as "History of the Government of the English Speaking Peoples," or even "of the people livi ...more
booklady
While many have found fault with his historical method, others have critiqued his unorthodoxy, Time Herself will -- I believe -- prove the truth in the spirit of Winston's writing if not in the letter. What can I say? For all his many faults, I love him! And despite the shameful national episode of returning his statue, I won't part with my four volume set of Winnie's History of the English Speaking Peoples. Sadly, I have never sat and read them all cover-to-cover, but I have read large sections ...more
Noreen
Readable without reference books. Churchill is impressive, maybe the best of all English Rulers. Certainly the most impressive English Prime Minister. Very readable, great reference. Enjoyed the chapter on Vikings, after watching recent PBS/History channel on Vikings. There real was a Viking leader named Ragnar Lofgren. Will continue reading remaining 3 volumes.
Tyler
I first got interested in English History after taking a class on it in my first year of college. I decided to read this as much for who its author was as for the subject, and I'm really glad I did.

The book started slightly slowly, but the farther in I got the more enthralled I became. Winston Churchill's clear understanding of the scope of the entire country's history and real consequence of small individual actions by a given king or Parliament added a great deal of depth and understanding to
...more
Kurt
I so don't like having to choose an edition I didn't read. But the insides of the book would be the same, wouldn't they?

This is a real history book. Written in literate English by someone who knew how to communicate. Interestingly (well, to me it was) it was mostly written before the second world war, but not published until after. Volume one goes way, way back to the beginning of Britain. Churchill writes about the Romans, King Arthur, the War of the Roses, Magna Charta, the Norman Conquest, th
...more
Anastasia
I am going to continue with the next volume, but I have mixed emotions about this book.

I was amazed by the fact that one can brilliantly describe a history of a country almost absolutely excluding its international relationships and other countries mere existence. Now I understand why Sir E.H. Gombrich did not want to translate his "Little history of the world" with its European perspective to English till the last minute.

Additionally, being quite ignorant about many historic facts, I found it q
...more
Beth
This book was written by Churchill in 1957. I have always been fascinated by the Plantagenet kings. The first Plantagenet was Henry II-1154-89. He married Eleanor Aquitaine and inherited lots of French provinces. He was the one that "did in" Thomas Beckett. A quote from the book: "To contempories he was best known as Henry Fitz-Simmons; but he carried into English history the emblem of his house, the broom, the Planta Genesta, which later generations were to make the name of this great dynasty, ...more
Robert Ritter
A fascinating look at British history through the fifteenth century, by an equally fascinating man and scholar. Though this is history, it is well told by a man who was a master of the language.
Simone
Great book for the history of the British Isles. It is a bit outdated, but it serves to the advantage of revealing more about the author and the time of writing.
Julia
It was a bit of a tough read for me, but it taught me a lot too.
One thing that stood out to me was the Palagian Heresy, in this small bit of history I found truths and insights I would not have had otherwise. Also, while I still find the many kings to be a source of confusion for me, I developed a small knowledge upon which I can begin to shape my own opinions of these past events. This book gave me hooks, a back knowledge mostly forgotten but partially remember in order to greater understand t
...more
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14033
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. A noted statesman, orator and strategist, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army. A prolific author, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his own historical writings, "for his mastery ...more
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Other Books in the Series

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (4 books)
  • The New World (A History of the English Speaking Peoples, #2)
  • The Age of Revolution (A History of the English Speaking Peoples, #3)
  • The Great Democracies (A History of the English Speaking Peoples, #4)
The Gathering Storm (The Second World War, #1) Their Finest Hour (The Second World War, #2) My Early Life, 1874-1904 The Second World War The Grand Alliance (The Second World War, #3)

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“And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honour, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round.” 68 likes
“In Germany they had no kings. They developed them in Britain from leaders who claimed descent from the ancient gods.” 0 likes
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