Robert Colls

Our Island Stories

The English and Their History

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 1,024pp £35 order from our bookshop

Have you forgotten Ethelbreth? Do you have difficulty remembering dates? Do you find television historians interesting in any way? Do you feel sluggish? Do you feel postmodernism has lost the plot? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then this book is for you. It’s the perfect pick-me-up. In fact, I could hardly put it down.

This is certainly the right time to write a history of the English, and Tombs proves he is equal to the task in choosing to write it in the way that the English have chosen to remember it – which is, or which was, as a story where all that matters is that they are a free people who go on being free. This makes his job straightforward but not easy, partly because the story is not entirely true and partly because they were not just a people but a powerful state engaged in the world.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,
    • 'Keynes predicted that future generations would enjoy such an improved standard of living that they might work just… ,
    • 'Various dislocations ... emerge, iceberg-like, out of a troubled sea of unconscious motivation and confront Eisenb… ,
    • Today is the first today of the – they've got some excellent events coming up over the next two weeks.… ,