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Great Tales from English History, Vol 1

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,187 ratings  ·  138 reviews
With insight, humor and fascinating detail, Lacey brings brilliantly to life the stories that made England -- from Ethelred the Unready to Richard the Lionheart, the Venerable Bede to Piers the Ploughman.

The greatest historians are vivid storytellers, Robert Lacey reminds us, and in Great Tales from English History, he proves his place among them, illuminating in
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published June 3rd 2004 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  1,187 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Some highlights:

* Why do so few post-ice-age ancient human remains survive? Some archaeologists say its because relatives ate them.

* The Greek navigator Pytheas almost certainly sailed around the [British] islands and was the first to describe the shape of Britain as a wonky triangle.

* Early feminist hero: King Alfreds daughter Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, who built ten walled communities and captured Derby and Leicester from the Vikings. Maybe celebrities will start naming their girl
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stand-alone
Finally! I have finished this book!

I have been slowing making my way through this book for about a year or so and it has been an interesting one. Most of the chapters (really I can only remember one about cricket that wasn't) were really interesting and there are so many subjects and stories that have attracted my attention that I need to look into more. If you are interesting in a very simple book which features some of the highlights of the history of the United Kingdom I can highly recommend
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I know I should be more critical of stuff like this, since I am a doctor of history and all that, but this was pretty fun. I got it at a used bookstore in London because I wanted some local flavor while I rode the tube. Good stories. Plus, Lacey is diligent about noting which stories are more dubious than others. He mentions several times that a particular tale can only be traced to one source, which was written two hundred years after the fact, so likely not true. But that's part of the fun, ...more
Amy Edwards
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. Published in 2003, Lacey mentions in the introduction that he grew up reading and loving H.E. Marshalls Our Island Story, and for those of us who read OIS to our own children, I believe his fondness for living history stories like Marshalls is evident. Lacey wants to tell us the full truth, however, and demystifies some of the lore, but retains the fun of the stories. For the most part, I would say he succeeds. And he convinces me of his historicity with plenty of primary ...more
This was a very accessible volume. The book is divided into short stories, chronologically for the most part, about the characters that make history. Legend is treated firmly, but sympathetically, and everywhere that primary sources can be quoted they certainly are.

I found this book both entertaining and informative. The bibliography in the back was quite extensive, and I was rather happy to see that it included some of the books that I've been using for reference.

I'd recommend this to anyone
Cynthia Egbert
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-and-read
I cannot recommend these three volumes of work highly enough. History really is about the stories, in the end.
Luke Kirwan
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Cracking lock read. Being from Winchester and having just moved to London, I loved the tales about the two cities, and learned a plethora of interesting tales about places I regularly walk past.
This book is going to be next to the toilet for years to come, for guests to treat themselves to a scintillating story on the sh*tter!
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
These tiny tales are more about entertainment than edification, and on that level they mostly succeed. I hesitate to call it a good "bathroom" book for fear of being unspeakably vulgar, but really, that's what it is.
Liza Lorenz
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review @

Last summer, while staying in a friend's apartment, I happened upon this book. Since I didn't finish it while there, I purchased my own copy of this fun and fascinating read. Okay, I can see you already searching for the phone number of the man with the net to come get me. A history book? Is she mad? Didn't we suffer enough in school? Believe me, I know, but before you make that call, hear me out, because this book has everything your 7th-grade history class lacked:
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought a copy of Great Tales From English History because having been a resident of this fine land for 4.5 years I felt my historical knowledge was lacking. I've walked past Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square countless times but had no real idea what he actually did apart from "something to do with Napoleon". You can't sneeze in this country without hitting a street, building or tree named after Queen Victoria or Prince Albert but again, what were they? And why do the French hate the English ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
History is always more interesting when it's told as a story, and Lacey approaches his topic from exactly that angle. He presents the history of England in a series of short vignettes, each focusing on an individual. Most of these individuals actually existed, but Lacey isn't afraid to tackle legendary personalities as well, with known facts contrasted against the legends and the impact those legends had.

Having so recently emerged from reading the latest two volumes of George RR Martin's Song of
Alex Dolan
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book has taught be fascinating insights into iconic moments in English history. For example:

A female warrior queen, Boadicea, fought against the Romans when they came to England. She is rumored to be buried under platform 10 at King's Cross station, which is why JK Rowling had the Hogwarts Express depart at platform nine and three-quarters.

Readers can learn the interesting truths behind Lady Godiva, Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart, all written in funny and fluid prose. A great example
Jul 16, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Basic, entry level fodder that parrots clichéd, often widely disproved false truths and generally adds nothing to the canon.
If you got this book for free and know nothing about history, feel free to read.
If you know the slightest bit about European/British history and aren't a simpleton, don't waste your time.
Feb 05, 2017 marked it as put-aside-for-now
Since it has been 2 years since I have even looked at this book, I am pretty sure that I am done with it! (It must not have been all that interesting!)
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Wonderfully witty and fascinating vignettes of English history from Æthelred the Unready to Piers the Plowman. The author blithely destroys English myths and replaces them with a greater understanding of the times in which the events occurred and a deeper knowledge of what the myth originally intended to convey.
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. It was light, but entertaining.
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed every moment of this quick little read! The Anglophile in me couldn't put it down. Lots of fascinating historical tidbits in here.
Joe Johnson
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-history
I enjoyed this first volume of of Great Tales from English History. The author has broken out some of the more interesting episodes from English history, beginning with the ancient times and ending with the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Each "tale" is just a few pages, so it easy to put this book down and pick it up again later. While it may be difficult to get an overall view of England during these years, the author does provide some background and connection between some of the tales.

This is
Max Tachis
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended reading! Fun, accessible, and light; Robert Lacey's first volume of "Great Tales from English History" is a terrific introduction to a fascinating historical time period.

Lacey presents broad strokes, just scratching the surface, which may not be what one expects when first looking into this book. However, the balance between what we know, what we don't, what is history and what is myth is as educational as it is digestible.

I already put holds on volumes 2 and 3 at my local
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this over a couple of months, dipping in every now and then for little nuggets of enjoyment. This is not a serious history book in the sense that the facts of a period of time or historical event is explored in great depth, these are as the title says 'tales', which includes fact and fiction. It's not just the history that makes up the a nation's consciousness, but also the myths and tall tales that are interwoven in with the facts.
Good fun!
Pete daPixie
A brief compendium, 'Great Tales from English History: Cheddar Man to the Peasant's Revolt' covers smithers of events from post ice age man to King Richard II. Robert Lacey's easy, and at times humorous style, written in short chapters, could be ideal for junior readers.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure this broad sweep of English history is covered in the national curriculum these days on account of something called political correctness.
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable and informative read. It doesn't go into enormous detail, as the chapters are generally quite short, but it's up to the reader to expand their reading on any areas of particular interest. But as a succinct overview, it works well.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
So I am not usually a history reader, but Lacey's narrative- mostly fact-based with some fun legends mixed in was just so inviting. The overall tone was perfect for a casual reader like me who has little knowledge of English history. I'll definitely be looking for the next two volumes.
Marianne Ashby
Short stories to give you a glimpse into England's history. This volume starts in ice age and takes us through to Saxon times. Well written and interesting, if not thorough. Really helpful for finding context and a great companion to other English history reading.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This covers several centuries and each chapter is a different story, and about 2-5 pages long. So a real quick primer on this era of British history, if that's a thing you like. I do, so it worked for me, but it wasn't the best thing I've ever read.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lacey is an excellent storyteller. I loved his approach to history, focusing on character-driven stories.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love the structure of these booksshort chapters telling concise stories with the catchiness and wit of fables, except factual and detailed. ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like the format of short anecdotal entries.
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Robert Lacey is a British historian noted for his original research, which gets him close to - and often living alongside - his subjects. He is the author of numerous international bestsellers.

After writing his first works of historical biography, Robert, Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh, Robert wrote Majesty, his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II. Published in 1977, Majesty remains

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