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A Short History of England

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,431 ratings  ·  229 reviews
England's history is the most exciting of any nation on Earth. Its triumphs and disasters are instantly familiar, from the Norman Conquest to the two world wars, but to fully understand their significance we need to know the whole story.
A Short History of England sheds light on all the key individuals and events, bringing them together in an enlightening and engaging accou
Paperback, 319 pages
Published October 4th 2012 by Profile Books (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Mike Clarke
Simon Jenkins rattles through the history of England in a brisk, no-nonsense fashion, summarising, precising, determining for all he's worth. A writer of a certain generation, this was no doubt how he was taught history at his presumably rather good school - short, sharp and with no room for ambiguity or doubt. The style has an utterly familiar ring to it for this is Tory history in essence: my country right or wrong, the forward march of progress, the glorious destiny of the English people, all ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having minored in history in college, it still surprises me upon reflection that I did not take any courses that focused squarely on England (being the self-proclaimed Anglophile that I am). Most of the books I read at that time and many of the courses I took were about Russian history -- from Peter & Catherine the Great, to the last Tsars of Russia. I'm the first to admit that American schools fall woefully short when it comes to teaching its students anything outside of the bounds of American ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book as it gave me insight into historical events that I didn’t know much about (Before 1066) but there was a little too much historical and political bias at times and this made me cringe at the author’s refusal to see both sides of the argument.
Ryan Lally
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Could easily be renamed, "A short history of English Monarchy and Politics". I am reluctant to be too harsh on Jenkins for 'missing' certain elements here as any attempt to give a concise account of a nation's history (especially one as elaborate as England) is destined to be a truncated one. However this seemed to be explicitly England through the lens of politics, monarchy and and the ruling class. Little to nothing is made of social movements, culture, art, (though architecture is touched upo ...more
Victor Sonkin
It's a concise illustrated brief history of England (not Britain) since the beginning of times (after the Romans left) to the present, quite up-to-date, considering. Some might think it partisan, and I'm sure many English people have and will; for a foreigner, it's a very solid introduction that imposes some kind of narrative structure and unity on all those scattered snippets of Henry VIII's wives and Churchill's blood and sweat. Especially touching is the fact that this is exactly what the aut ...more
Andrew Robins
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
When a book advertises itself as a "short" history of England, and has 280 odd pages to fit everything in, one obvious upshot is that certain periods are covered in a brief blizzard of names and places. I found this highly confusing and hard to follow in the parts of our history i had absolutely no idea about (ie everything pre 1066), and to be honest, having only just finished the book, I still can't remember that much about that period.

Where I enjoyed the book much more was in covering periods
Fred Forbes
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wandering the UK on my first ever visit, I came across this in a local bookstore. Given that I was visiting historical places this seemed a good way to get up to speed with the mother country. As the title implies, the book is short and sweet. But well told. Not much left out from a British perspective, but from the U.S. definitely. No war of 1812,for example but plenty of battles of ancient kings. One thing that did drive me bonkers was the lack of a map. Events were taking place all over the U ...more
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Not the best history book I've read. The problem with Jenkins' text is that it functions mostly as a list of names and dates. Unlike more interesting history books which detail the social, political, and especially the economic climates that lead to various events, this book simply lists the names of kings, the dates of battles, and occasionally makes a comment on the culture or economy of the time. However, this is the first book on English history that I've read, and while I would have preferr ...more
Richard Thomas
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-history
If you wish for a concise, well written and learned history of England, this will do as well as anything. Simon Jenkins does what he says on the packet and writes a short history. There are rivals in Peter Ackroyd and Simon Schama but their books are in several volumes and to my mind, although good to have (and I do) rather fall between the stall that Simon Jenkins is in, a good single volume history, and that occupied by the Oxford histories which cover the same ground in ten or so volumes. I m ...more
Jacob Stelling
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book which uses narrative history to make links between previously isolated periods of history. Themes are analysed throughout, making it easier to understand social and political change from Roman Britain to the country we see today; to understand how we went from an absolute monarchy to a pluralistic democracy; and to understand what has caused the country to change so much over two thousand years.
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a really excellent survey of our history. Jenkins is fair and interesting. Really enjoyable.
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very well written book covering all of English history from the Romans to 2011. Having to cover so much scope means that the author didn't get to do in depth on some things that might have been pet interests to me, but it gave a great understanding of how this nation came to be. I loved those "aha" moments when something I'd seen or a place I'd walked by was suddenly brought into context by reading it's place in history or how it came to be. An example would be how the three feathers came to be ...more
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Not a bad history of England, but exactly what it says: Short. The rush to feed you dates and facts leaves out a lot of context, and sometimes even meaning, but if you already have a solid knowledge of the country's history and want a quick refresher, it does the job. It's biggest problem is in balance. The first thousand years of English history is packed into the first half of the book, while the second half carries just one hundred years. And it has to be said that the telling gets more inter ...more
Simon Adams
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
A rapid race through the entire history of England as we know it. Bite size chapters. I was never interested in History yet this book kept my interest. If I were rating it as a history book I’d probably give 5 stars because it’s one of the very few I have ever wanted to read and have stuck with. I learned loads too that I didn’t know or realise before. I can only give three stars as it was exceptionally readable but mainly due to subject matter I would never enjoy it as much as my four and five ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
A Short History of England sheds light on all the key individuals and events, bringing them together in an enlightening and engaging account of the country’s birth, rise to global prominence and then partial eclipse. There have been long synoptic histories of England but until now there has been no standard short work covering all significant events, themes and individuals. A Short History changes that.

I’d like to think I know a fair bit about England’s history, being an avid reader and having w
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that’s been on my to-read list for years. My knowledge of English history is spotty and lacks the sort of connections that transform history from a bunch of factoids into a narrative. A Short History of England seemed the perfect counterpart to that, but it wasn’t until I made a New Year’s Resolution to finally read all of Shakespeare’s history plays that I sat down with A Short History of England.

Pun not intended, but A Short History is longer than I expected. It’s sh
Dec 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
We have a peculiar habit as a nation of buying history books written by journalists rather than historians. They tend to suffer from the same faults that make newspapers unreliable sources for research; a conflation of fact and opinion, a one-eyed outlook and a strange romantification of the entire genre.

Jenkins is essentially a good journalist. It isn't a bad book. But is there really a need for a reasonably accurate and very selective history. It perpetuates the way history was taught in gramm
Supriyo Chaudhuri
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a easy to read, short book, full of crisp writing and witty quotes that I quite enjoyed. The narrative generalises, as any book of this size must, but in galloping through two thousand years of history, the book stops at many interesting waypoints. It's not the way of academic historians, with good reason, but I quite enjoy the kings-and-things history books such as this one.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting to actually read through the full (if very summarised) history of England from its beginning to now. Found this book a lot more easy to read than I thought I would (being so many centuries of history) and enjoyed it thoroughly as a good long-train-ride read. The author certainly presents the facts with a bit of a biased lens but he’s pretty open about that from the beginning so it wasn’t too off-putting. Generally quite informative and enjoyable :)
Samuel Hurst
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the chapters on the early days of England. Slightly random call for a written constitution from Jenkins on the final two pages of the epilogue.
Stephen McQuiggan
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Flags a little at the end, proving that kings and queens were more flamboyant in their bastardry than drab politicians could ever hope to be.
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I am having some problems trying to articulate my feelings on this book. After reading a LOT of historical fiction recently, I felt a craving for some historical non-fiction. I find history extremely interesting, but tire of it quickly. I find my need for a good story leaves me rather unequipped to deal with the gaps in narrative that you often find when learning about actual history. I also am extremely picky about what parts of history interest me more (Sorry late Stuarts and post-second world ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Well, who'd have thunk that this book would actually be a short history of England? Clocking at around 300 pages of text and several pictures, Jenkins bombards the reader with names, dates, and various historical events starting from 410 AD to around 2010. That's about a 1600 years of history, folks.

This style, however, turns out to be fairly informative. It also helps that throughout the book, Jenkins drops cameos by well-known English writers and artists into the mix. Such touches helps one g
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I'll fully admit I knew very little of English history before reading this book; apart from the key dates learned in school and names of the 'important' monarchs that I couldn't place in order - be thankful for roman numerals - and to be honest I'm still a little sketchy on that. But at least now I can place them, why these dates were important and how everything that happened from the romans has shaped where I live, and me.

This book is an overview so if you're like me and are intrigued then it'
Rich Burt
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author does remarkably well to remain largely politically neutral in offering up this history, especially in the more parliamentarian years. The book does assume quite a lot of the reader, but I took much of the information snippets as a prompt to do my own research rather than bemoan that assumption. To cram around 1500 years of pretty dense political and monarchial history into 300 pages was an immense undertaking and one I feel Simon Jenkins has delivered in a well rounded overview.
Barnaby Thieme
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, england
Jenkins presents us with a serviceable and opinionated historical sketch of England from the Anglo-Saxon invasion through the present day. By necessity, this brief book leaps and bounds at full speed through its course. It would be dangerous to read this book in isolation, but it provides a useful big picture view, and I found it a useful framework for pursuing areas of interest for further study.
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for an innovative new take on the history of England - this book is definitely not it. Its really just a reasonably well written description of the sequence of events that formed English history. You get to know the kings/queens, the key political, economic and social events, the standard interpretation of all of this and thats pretty much it. The book is pretty good for that (and given the title thats exactly what this book is supposed to do), but dont expect anything more.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A whirlwind history of England. I knew virtually nothing about it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll retain much of what I read since several centuries of history were condensed into 350 pages. At times it was like reading parts of the Bible that fly through kings and judges and occasionally slow down for an interesting story. Still, it gave me a greater understanding of the country and its past. I'm glad I read it.
Laurinde Koster
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
John Frankham
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A re-read of this excellent short history of England. Wanted to remind myself of the full sweep of history before concentrating on a particular period, and this provides the ideal context, and the 'before and after'. Excellent.
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Simon Jenkins is the author of the international bestsellers England’s Thousand Best Churches and England’s Thousand Best Houses, the former editor of The Times and Evening Standard and a columnist for the Guardian. He is chairman of the National Trust.

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