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Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

(The History of England #1)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  3,606 ratings  ·  428 reviews
Peter Ackroyd, whose work has always been underpinned by a profound interest in and understanding of England's history, now tells the epic story of England itself.

In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England's prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the
Hardcover, First U.S. edition, 496 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published September 1st 2011)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Start your review of Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors (The History of England, #1)
(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
”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 ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dave Cullen
Feb 08, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Shelves: history, england
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
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Well written, but sometimes his novelist's imagination seems to get away from him a little (as when he posits that English cattle raids inspired the Iliad, or compares William the Conqueror dedicating a daughter to a nunnery to Agamemnon and Iphigenia), which is when I really wish he'd cite his sources.
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
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I'll give it a solid 3 Stars but it could have been more. I take away a higher rating as it had no maps whatsoever and also did not give any help in deciphering the intricate and confusing relationships among all the players-especially needed after 1066. I'm sure the native English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh would not need any such guides but my colonial mind could not keep track of who begat who. And no maps when there are so many shires, counties, battles, marches, invasions, castles, ...more
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
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: illustrated, 2012
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
Tristram Shandy
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Never Tell Your Foe that Your Foot Aches

This is one of the saws attributed to the medieval Hendyng, who must have been a quarry of proverbial wisdom and therefore very been popular in – and, of course, outside – schoolrooms, and I liked this adage so much that I chose it to introduce my review on Peter Ackroyd’s first volume of The History of England with because I think it sums up pretty much the spirit of the age.

In this first volume, Ackroyd presents the history of what was later to be
Bob Mayer
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you've wondered what the real precursor to Game of Thrones is, read this book.

The power plays as England pulled together and became a nation has enough intrigue and interesting historical facts to make even the non-history buff enjoy reading it.

The author writes with wit and great insight. I love the details of history and the amazing connections that if I made up in one of my novels readers would say I was over the top-- but in this book they're the real deal. Truth is indeed stranger than
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
Feb 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
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 ...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.

Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Foundation is a good layman's introduction to English history. It is more of a survey book filled with cool historical minutiae from the origin of names to different cultural traditions to come from this period. It is written in a very easy to read format and is readily accessible to any reader. But this is not an in-depth historical work, but that might increase it's appeal to the average reader.

Each chapter about a ruler is interspaced with a small chapter about some cultural or historical
Job van der Kooij
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
Brian Willis
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Rosemary Atwell
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining, easily read, romp through English history following the royal line.
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Re-read 2018
I picked this one up at the end of October as a fun read. It's still an enjoyable read the second time around.

I have always enjoyed this author's history books. This book was no different, I really enjoyed reading it. Though, at times it felt like he was trying to rush through chapters and eras, so he could get to everything he wanted in this book. It starts in Stone Age England and ends with the rule of the Tudors. It's the first book in a possible series, I just hope with the
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written, easy to understand and such an interesting read

Even being English, the vastness of the country's history makes it all too overwhelming and confusing to make all the connections between the multitude of names I've recognised since childhood. I remember switching off in history lessons at school -it was all just too much. Thank you Peter Ackroyd, you've helped me to finally see the whole picture and a more realistic one at that.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book. Very easy to read and to follow. There are lots of interesting bits of information about the times and the way of life in England.
Now I need to read the next volume :)

Full review from blog

I love reading history books, good ones, at least. There’s nothing better than immersing yourself in another time guided by the masterful pen of a well-informed author. And that is what you get with this book.

I saw that many people online commented on his “rushing through” the middle
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
I'm so glad that I've finally read this book. I've owned it (and the other ones in the series) for ages and just never gotten to it. I think it's a book of epic proportion because it covers England from prehistory through 1509. Personally, I think it's a bit much. That's a major con of the book. I think that the end of the Plantagenet reign and the coming of the Tudors could have been pushed to the second book. I mean, it's such a shame that Henry VII is relegated to one and a half chapters ...more
Kristen Lesperance
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction, own
Peter Ackroyd knows how to write history. I enjoyed reading this book and how the chapters would switch between reading about the Monarchy and life in England. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, history, 5-star
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
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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

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
“The ordinary routines of life are never chronicled by the historian, but they make up almost the whole of experience.” 11 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.” 5 likes
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