THE BEAUTY OF writing (and, indeed, reading) a history of this country from Roman times to the present day is that one sees what a seamless garment time is. The right way to regard historical events is in relation to the continuum: for it is impossible to evaluate anything in isolation, or to understand properly how it came about. There are no gaps: one event leads on to another. To cover 2,000 years of what used to be called Our Island Story in fewer than 800 pages is a tall order; and to her credit Rebecca Fraser does it with thoroughness and diligence. And yet, this is a peculiarly reactionary book, and perhaps more superficial than it needed to be, even given the confines of the single volume.