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The Birth of Britain

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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,140 ratings  ·  205 reviews
"This history will endure; not only because Sir Winston has written it, but also because of its own inherent virtues - its narrative power, its fine judgment of war and politics, of soldiers and statesmen, and even more because it reflects a tradition of what Englishmen in the hey-day of their empire thought and felt about their country's past." The Daily Telegraph

448 pages
Published 2002 (first published 1956)
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Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 s
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Churchill could really write. The sentences roll on, and the pages, tiny print and all, also roll on by. This is the first volume of a four volume history of the English-Speaking, and it covers the misty and mysterious beginnings of "Britannia" (about 55 years before Christ), up through Richard III looking for his horse at the battle of Bosworth. (Actually, that Shakespearean detail is not in Churchill's account of the battle.) In his introduction, Churchill cautions that his history is not to b ...more
Dec 28, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  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
Sonic3bros Gawyn
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read for school better than a textbook and we start with America's history in Albion.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is sweeping national history told with verve and dash. It is as much an insight into Churchill as it is into Britain's past. One forgets that this inspiring orator, proud statesman and defender of the realm was also a great writer who spent the "alone" years before World War II drafting this history of the English-speaking peoples. Churchill's Latinate prose recalls Gibbon, but his own striking personality shines through in passage after passage. "The Second World War" may be his most impor ...more
Saul Escalona
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.0 stars.
In reference to the period of the Roman invasion to Britain and the following invasions of saxxons,  vikings and normans up to the end of 12th century, I have been looking for trustworthy and summarized information  about this period.
So far, I have read confusing and contradicting informatión.
W. Churchil was an acute politician and  a formidable strategist in warfares and I thought he might be a reliable source of information and facts.
Reading this book, certain
Ray Campbell
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
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.
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written popular history of England from Roman times to the end of the end of the War of the Roses. The last half of the book is pretty much all about court intrigue and problems of royal succession. The primary value of the book is Churchill's explanation of English character based on various historical trends. For example, English political behaviors and love of liberty can be traced to a landed class of Danish warriors that settled most the country in the 9th Century.
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books
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. ...more
Andrew Fish
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The life of a history book is a strange thing: written with the sensibilities of their own age, they may flourish in their time only to be overtaken by changes of outlook, or by research which overturns the facts they purport as truth. The more pedestrian works will then themselves become part of history, whilst those whose other qualities recommend them become classics - read more for entertainment than education.

The life of Churchill's books are curious even by those standards: col
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with all history, there were bits of this that were fascinating and so well told. And there were bits that, for me at least, became too bogged down in details and lost my interest.

But the parts that were interesting and well-told were extraordinary, insightful, and almost lyrical.

Some Favorite Quotes:
it is the primary right of men to die and kill for the land they live in

We walk with shorter paces, but on firmer footholds.

It is all true, or it ought to
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
He makes it come alive.
Genadi Mihaylov
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest history books ever. The books is written by a person who clearly understands the historical events and people behind them, with all their qualities of character, mind and soul. It's also not a coinsidence, that George R.R. Martin is using it to write his "Game of Thrones". The chapter about the War of The Roses is written like a movie script - with lots of verbs and characters and very little discription - which is a proof of just how personal Churchil takes the whole book. ...more
Lucy Powell
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long and tedious reading, yet undoubtedly as accurate as is possible considering the time span.

Churchill is thorough and insightful as a student of history. He explains the true nature of the wars made famous and romanticised in English literature. No wonder Churchill had such a hard time getting the British Parliament to take his warnings seriously about the rise of Nazis. Churchill was too bluntly honest to soften what he recognised as truth.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, survey, britain
The Birth of Britain covers the most storied aspect of British and English history, beginning with the invasion of the island by Rome and continuing to the end of the Hundred Years War. We begin, then, with an island at the "end of the world" being invaded and connected to continental civilization, and developing through until at the end of the long conflict with France, England is again its own sceptered isle, left to chart its own course. Although Celtic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon Britain all re ...more
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Whew! I'm finally finished. I decided I would try to read some non-fiction every day and treat it like a school course,and I began with this. I read 10 pages at a minimum a day while also reading some fiction and my book club books.

This text was fantastic. I had respect for Churchilll as a leader; I have even more respect for Churchill as an historian and writer.

The book begins in 55 BC with the Roman invasions of Britain, and goes through Roman colonization, Viking raids, the House of Wessex,
Eric Sexton
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I actually found this book in one of those "free books" cabinets people build in residential neighborhoods. I don't know why, it just called out to me. I think partially because my year abroad made me appreciate the history of English speaking cultures, but also because I was schocked to find out that Churchill was a hell of a writer.

This book is a joy to read. Churchill tells the story in a very digestible and accessible way. It's a history of Britain from the era of Roman occupation until the
Jeremy Noble
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
A momentous and surprising book. I was not expecting to enjoy this epic as much as I did. Doubtless there are savage critiques of his method and substance lurking somewhere - but what a readable and living history to savour. I could imagine that this early narrative that takes us from pre-history through to the beginnings of Henry VIII reign would humble the average Briton with it's tales of intrigue and savagery. It's a timely reminder as I read this in 2018 looking in at the country from Austr ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book begins in the mist of legends and tells the very detailed history of just exactly who the British people descend from in the scope of what invading force landed on the island, what outside rule they lived under, and how these invasions became settled landowners, farmers, townspeople, and nobility. This first book in a set of four naturally tells the many stories of the leaders of the island nation, beginning with Alfred the Great, and going through Richard III. The reader learns the cha ...more
Jared Adams
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Churchill is well known in history as a masterful politician who led Great Britain through the Second World War. He is also, however, a Noble Prize winning author. His first volume in his series on the history of Great Britain and its people cover the coming of Caesar to the shores of Albion to the victory of the Earl of Richmond (Henry Tudor) over Richard III ending the Plantagenet dynasty. Churchill has and easy to read and entertaining prose and covers a wide range of historical details with ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A detailed and enjoyable history covering a period from the time of Julius Caesar in 55 BC to the accession of the Tudors to the throne in 1485.

Churchill's style and prose has been commented on and acclaimed many times, so I don't need to elaborate on it again. Suffice it to close with the following quote, proved timeless by current events:

"A modern dictator with the resources of science at his disposal can easily lead the public on from day to day, destroying all persistency of tho
Robbie Forkish
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a treat! I don't think I've ever enjoyed history as much as the history of Britain and the English-speaking people as this by Winston Churchill. Yes, that Churchill, one who can write the history of the kings and queens of England as if writing about his peers in history. Beautifully rendered, in florid and epic language, deserving of the Nobel Prize for Literature. But it's also a story lovingly told, not just about battles and wars but also about St Patrick and King Arthur and legends whi ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is both magnificent and breath-taking. This is an even paced and yet sweeping narrative of the formative years in Britain, up to the death of Richard III. One does not need an extensive knowledge of Britain’s history to understand or enjoy this book. However, having read all of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series, seen all of Shakespeare’s plays, and taken guided tours all over the British Isles means that The Birth of Britain for me is a comprehensive yet concise explanation of that history. Thi ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Churchill, along with his myriad other strengths and talents, was clearly a formidable historian and writer. He brings an incredibly long stretch of British history to life with this wonderful 1st volume in the history of the English-speaking peoples. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Roman Conquest, the dark ages, the War of the Roses, etc or just to enjoy his mastery of the English language using a style and vocabulary that has passed out of usage. Excellen ...more
I was not sure what to expect with this, but I really enjoyed this book. Churchill writes descriptively, clearly, and with unique personality. The historical stories were well told, and he took a time period that could be a bit dry (at least for me) and made it interesting. There were a few times when there were a few too many names for me to follow - medieval England is not a strong area in terms of my history knowledge - but it helped me learn a great deal. Highly recommended and I am looking ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Churchill is a fantastic writer. This book introduced me to the broad strokes and major figures of the history of that island nation we call Britain. What a weaving wandering tale of murder and mayhem, deeds and misdeeds, heroes and villains. I appreciated having an able guide in Churchill, whose own historical importance loomed in my mind as I read his heartfelt prose - especially when he praised or censured various characters.

There are three more volumes in this series, and I would like to re
Michael Goulden
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Along with volumes 2 and 3, absolutely worth the 99p each in a local Oxfam. Joking aside, Churchill's prose is so good, that it didn't matter that I've read narrative histories of England before and there was nothing here I didn't already know. I highly recommend it.

I bought a kindle copy as well, but that has more to do with the fact I may have stumbled across one or two first editions in near-pristine condition up for sale for next-to nothing! I can't tell for certain, but it's a s
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The history of the world is a history of conflict. War after war. Betrayal after betrayal. Hundreds of years of it. I am continually amazed at the corruption that power brings and it’s ill effects continue on and on for generations.

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39)
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, my-library
Very good book. It is so impressive that Churchill wrote this. I would have expected the author would be a life-long historian. This book devours the history of the British Isle from something like 500 b.c.e. To the end of the Plantagenets.
It is very well written and incredibly interesting. It is not dryly written either, but told in an informative but witty manner.there are a total of four volumes in this series. All written after WWII.
This is a must read.
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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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“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.” 73 likes
“No one can understand history without continually relating the long periods which are constantly mentioned to the experiences of our own short lives. Five years is a lot. Twenty years is the horizon to most people. Fifty years is antiquity. To understand how the impact of destiny fell upon any generation of men one must first imagine their position and then apply the time-scale of our own lives. Thus nearly all changes were far less perceptible to those who lived through them from day to day than appears when the salient features of an epoch are extracted by the chronicler. We peer at these scenes through dim telescopes of research across a gulf of nearly two thousand years. We cannot doubt that the second and to some extent the third century of the Christian era, in contrast with all that had gone before and most that was to follow, were a Golden Age for Britain. But by the early part of the fourth century shadows had fallen upon this imperfect yet none the less tolerable society. By steady, persistent steps the sense of security departed from Roman Britain. Its citizens felt by daily experience a sense that the world-wide system of which they formed a partner province was in decline.” 2 likes
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