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Foundation (The History of England #1)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,826 Ratings  ·  347 Reviews
Having written enthralling biographies of London and of its great river, the Thames, Peter Ackroyd now turns to England itself.

This first volume of six takes us from the time that England was first settled, more than 15,000 years ago, to the death in 1509 of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII. In it, Ackroyd takes us from Neolithic England, which we can only see in the mos
Hardcover, 486 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Macmillan
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(B+) 78% | Good
Notes: Very readable, but speeds too quickly through the middle ages and its antecedent eras in a rush to reach the Tudors.
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”The house of the Plantagenets, from Henry II to Richard III himself was brimming with blood. In their lust for power the members of the family turned upon one another. King John murdered, or caused to be murdered, his nephew Arthur; Richard II dispatched his uncle, Thomas of Gloucester; Richard II was in turn killed on the orders of his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke: Henry VI was killed in the Tower on the orders of his cousin, Edward IV; Edward IV murdered his brother, Clarence, just as his own tw ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredible history book about England, starting with the earliest inhabitants thousands of years ago, moving briskly through the Roman invasion and the years leading up to William the Conqueror, and then wrapping up with the tenth through the fifteenth centuries. Most of the drama focuses on the kings and their political exploits, but the author does check in on the peasants every now and again.

This book is more than 400 pages and is dense with facts and stories. Ackroyd writes well a
Dave Cullen
I'm 100 pages in and mesmerized. This answers so many questions I've had for decades about who the English actually were, what tribes they were composed of, and how both the "royalty" and "nobility" came to be, and who they were. Amazing.

(I put those words in quotes because I think they're imaginary, foul concepts. Obviously, I recognize that such classes were created and had a monumental impact, and I'm fascinated by them, but I sure don't recognize them as "noble," much less royal.)

Lyn Elliott
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, history
Ackroyd appears to have written this for people who don't read much history. His pop-journalistic style - 'Death was always at hand" - and selected themes - all kings are greedy and brutal, the ancient past underlies modern England combine with what seems to be superficial secondary research make it unsatisfying history, though many people enjoy his style.

In typical Ackroyd style, he interleaves his generalities with nuggets of detail. One I particularly liked, and so did he, obviously, because
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, england
The author writes on page 424 of my copy "The coffin was later used as a horse trough, and the bones of Richard III scattered." Well that turned out to be a bit of bad luck in terms of writing the subjective as historical fact.

Like all these historical overviews one always learns something new. I had never heard of the Gough Map for example. But that hardly makes up for a poorish book. I am disappointed as this should have been a very useful historical overview of England from the dawns of time
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
FOUNDATION: The History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors. (2012). Peter Ackroyd. *****.
This is obviously volume one in a projected series of books on the complete history of England. While reading this, I kept thinking that it would have been a wonderful text to have been assigned for my course in English History. There is not a dry page in the book. Ackroyd, a well-respected and prolific writer about various aspects of British history (along with a goodly list of novels an
Victor Gibson
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very ambitious book, covering the period from prehistory up to the death of Henry VII, and really it would be a good ideas to have some sort of computer programme such as Visio to hand while reading it, because the relationships between the main players becomes confusing. But this is not really a fault. I was prompted to read this book after reading the author's version of the Canterbury Tales, and I'm pleased I did.

It would be difficult to find a more informative and entertaining volu
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, illustrated
I picked this up on a whim without hearing anything about it, unfamiliar with Ackroyd's other books but with a general enjoyment of British history (currently stronger now that I've forsaken my homeland for one of the colonies!). My knowledge of pre-Tudor history is patchy at best though. Problem solved.

We are led from the very early days of the native peoples right through a series of conquests and colonisation, wars, famous battles and rivalries, mythical figures and folklore, up until the en
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
For someone like myself, who knows patches of English history but has never had an opportunity to grasp the wider picture, Foundation is the perfect remedy. It's a remarkable achievement of historical writing, somehow cramming in thousands of years of history without seeming overwhelming - creating a bold, enjoyable narrative from a complex and multi-faceted history. Ackryod carefully balances out his own enthusiasm and narrative flair with a solid respect for the history he's describing, and is ...more
K.J. Charles
Ackroyd is always a funny one. What I like about his work is the way he moves between very large historical sweeps and patterns down to very close detail. (I am also a total sucker for pyschogeography. Sssh, don't tell me it's nonsense.)

This was really interesting on settlement patterns and waves of migration and population expansion and contraction, and had a good focus on ordinary people. Intensely readable, too.

Brian Willis
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb. The best elements of Ackroyd's writing combine with his eccentricities to make this an unimpeachable history of the nation of England.

How is it unimpeachable? Ackroyd takes us from the earliest known elements of life on the English territory through to the reign of Henry VII, the moment it appears where more modern structures of English government emerged. In 448 pages, he accomplishes this by taking two critical approaches: he alternates his chapters in two styles. The first is a more s
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain
A good overview of Britain's history that starts with the earliest evidence of human habitation on the island and moves chronologically through a vast amount of time. It covers the Neolithic Age, the Iron Age, Roman Britannia, Anglo-Saxon England, the Viking Age, the Norman Invasion, and the events during the succession of rulers during the Normans, Plantagenets, Lancastrians, Yorkists, and the beginning of the Tudors. It is a staggering amount to cover in one book, but the author does a good jo ...more
Rosemary Atwell
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This elegantly written and insightful introductory volume of Ackroyd's ( as-yet incomplete ) series, which takes the reader from the island's prehistoric beginnings to the present day, is as much an investigation as a history. Ackroyd's analysis and commentary on every aspect of English life and times including all the big feature attractions - the building of Stonehenge, the coming of the Norsemen, the Norman Conquest, the War of the Roses and the rise of the Tudor dynasty is compelling and won ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The author offers thoughtful new insights into age-old discussions of English history. I particularly enjoyed the way the chapters alternate between narratives about the people in power, and descriptions of everyday life.

Unfortunately, though, Ackroyd's slapdash style is annoying. Far too often, he tosses together facts and comments without drawing any meaningful connections. I suspect that if this manuscript had been submitted by a less famous author, it never would have been accepted for publi
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining, easily read, romp through English history following the royal line.
Feb 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Quit after 130 pages. Simply couldn't stand the unending gross and unsupported generalizations and the occasional outright error of fact. This may well improve as he moves beyond the Normans to better-documented eras, but there are no notes at all I have no confidence in the author's authority. I'm not the sort who reads every foot note, but when I have a question about a statement I do like to know how the author came by his information. And not a single map in the entire book! A history withou ...more
Job van der Kooij
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was looking for a crash course history book, an outline of the history of England. Ackroyd has written exactly that kind of book: crash course history. In the process however he makes English history sound like a dull succession of kings and bishops. Every now and then there's a brief 'intermission' in which Ackroyd describes the more ordinary parts of English life: roads, livestock, position of women, money etc. But these separate mini-chapters actually do damage to the idea that the English ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For someone like myself, who's knowledge of this time is limited, this was a good book for me. I don't consider it to be a thorough going over of all of the "foundations", but more of an overview. That perhaps is not what Mr Ackroyd thinks, but he is writing this as someone who has a wealth of knowledge, and possibly thinks you do as well. I consider it an overview because the focus is on the leaders, the kings, and possibly rightfully so. There is of course mention of the notable Lords and such ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
While Ackroyd writes well and this book filled some gaping gaps in my knowledge of English medieaval history, I found it slightly lacking as a social history. There was too much focus on the power politics of the English plantagenet kings and not enough on the rest of society at large. Each individual story of the Kings is interesting in its own right and filled some gaps in my knowledge. But there are rather a lot of them and the book begins to feel like a procession of one damm King after anot ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, 5-star, history
A really strong book that I would recommend to almost anyone, certainly to anyone English and with even a passing interest in history.

So very interesting and so well-written. It comes over as being carefully researched, but even more I love the writing style. I read - or attempt - too many history books by academics. I have no doubt about their academic credentials but their writing is woeful. I have a degree in a related subject - Politics - and have spent my career reading technical and legal
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historia
La definición corta del libro es que se trata de una historia de Inglaterra destinada al gran público. Y como tal no entra en circunstancias de organización social, sistemas económicos, desarrollo cultural o cualquier otra cosa que pudiera resultar ardua a un lector no familiarizado con la historia. En su lugar Ackroyd se centra en reyes, batallas, invasiones y otros hechos destacados de la historia de Inglaterra desde su fundación hasta el final de la Edad Media.

Y lo hace bien. Aunque el princi
"Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors" by Peter Ackroyd is a decent overview of English history from Prehistoric times to the year 1509. It can serve as a jumping off point for someone interested in a deeper dive into some aspect of England's history.

Although I wouldn't call this book a "page-turner," it nevertheless marches through the centuries in a methodical manner that held my interest.

All the expected topics are covered: Stonehenge, the Roman occu
I got this book as an e-book on wicked sale when I was on a business trip and needed something to read. It is LONG, but I decided to forge ahead since I love the history of England, and no matter how many versions of it I read or watch (even Simon Schama's 10-part epic monstrosity of an awesome documentary) I can never seem to remember what the heck happened in most cases.

I guess that's what happens when you have so much history to work with and so many great and juicy stories to tell along with
Taking us through England's history from the time of the first settlers 15,000 years ago until the death of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, this was an intelligent and enthralling book entirely devoid of boring bits, filled with interesting facts and plausible theories.

Ackroyd is probably the best historian I've read to date, and paints a vivid picture of life for the general population as well as of our kings and other notables from one of my favourite periods to read about, and I eagerly awai
Rob Adey
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Peter Ackroyd is especially good at bringing out the deep, near-geological layers of history in a single place - here, England is his historical lasagna, and like Garfield, he inhales its rich and ancient scents. He uses more semi-colons than Jim Davis, though.

Simon Schama is Nermal in this analogy.
I always loved history and this is one detail book on subject of Tudors, ancient house with lot's of romantisiesd fiction books,TV Shows and movies, but in reality very fearful and cruel era.
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is for history junkies. It does not read like your high school European History book, but it is dense with info. I liked it!
Sarah -
So beyond disappointed in this poor excuse for a book. Have enjoyed Ackroyd's other books but this was absolute blech. Full review to come after I manage to reconcile all the nonsense.


My book blog ------>

I don't even.

I can't even begin to explain how disappointed I am in this book and Ackroyd's work here. I am actually kind of angry about this book. Normally he is an author I enjoy, having read several of his other titles (The Tham
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Having recently moved to England and spending some of my free time in museums and castles I wanted to learn a bit more about English history. Not know where to start or what time period I wanted to learn more about I stumbled across this series, which I thought would provide the perfect overview of English history and from there I could pick up more specific books on time periods and people if I wanted to know more about a particular history.

This book did just what I wanted it to. It provides a
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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 about Peter Ackroyd

Other books in the series

The History of England (5 books)
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I (The History of England, #2)
  • Rebellion: The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution (The History of England, #3)
  • Revolution (The History of England, #4)
  • Dominion: The History of England from the Battle of Waterloo to Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

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“The ordinary routines of life are never chronicled by the historian, but they make up almost the whole of experience.” 10 likes
“History is about longing and belonging. It is about the need for permanence and the perception of continuity. It concerns the atavistic desire to find deep sources of identity. We live again in the twelfth or in the fifteenth century, finding echoes and resonances of our own time; we may recognise that some things, such as piety and passion, are never lost; we may also conclude that the great general drama of the human spirit is ever fresh and ever renewed. That is why some of the greatest writers have preferred to see English history as dramatic or epic poetry, which is just as capable of expressing the power and movement of history as any prose narrative; it is a form of singing around a fire.” 4 likes
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