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A History of Britain: The Wars of the British 1603-1776 (2001)

por Simon Schama

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* 'Great Britain? What was that?' asks Simon Schama at the start of this, the second book of his epic three-volume journey into Britain's past. This volume, The British Wars, is a compelling chronicle of the changes that transformed every strand and stratum of British life, faith and thought from 1603 to 1776. Travelling up and down the country and across three continents, Schama explores the forces that tore Britain apart during two centuries of dynamic change - transforming outlooks, allegiances and boundaries.* From the beginning of the British wars in July 1637, for 200 years battles raged on - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.* The story of that great alteration is a story of revolution and reaction, inspiration and disenchantment, of progress and catastrophe, and Schama's evocative narrative brings it vividly to life.* From the beginning of the British wars in July 1637, for 200 years battles raged on - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.… (más)
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This has been my most recent audiobook and it followed on from my listening of volume 1 of the trilogy. This book covers the period of 1603-1776 and in particular the British civil wars. I didn't find this book as engaging as the first and this is a common issue I have with the time period involved. The civil wars involve so many characters that I find it hard to keep track of them all. I'm starting to think that this is a subject so big that you could dedicate a book to each 5 year period and still have to leave out quite a lot of detail. Depsite my reservations I still thought it was a worthwhile listen and although I may take a break from the series now, I will listen to the final installment before the end of the year. ( )
  Brian. | Apr 9, 2021 |
A spin-off from a BBC series, but reasonably scholarly and opinionated. Good.
Read June 2007 ( )
  mbmackay | Dec 6, 2015 |
Even more than its predecessor, this is a fine companion to the tv series of the same name. Partly that's because Schama isn't trying to do 4,600 years of history in one volume. And, besides constricting the time covered, Schama largely restricts the book to one theme: the notion of how the civil wars of the British, starting in the Stuart monarchies and ending with the American Revolution, led to a particular notion, an English notion of liberty.

In the Preface to the book, Schama describes himself as a "born-again Whig". He not only seems to mean an agreement with the gist of Victorian historians like Carlyle and Macauley - if not the details of their scholarship -- but what's been called the Whig notion of history, that great men matter.

Throughout the high points of the book, Oliver Cromwell and his reign, and the escalation of tensions before the American Revolution, he emphasizes history as often pivoting on the peculiarities of individual personalities. Cromwell, we see, may have been a theocrat, but he ultimately didn't think anyone, including himself, should have the power to sustain his regime. The loss of the American colonies was not inevitable - though Benjamin Franklin thought their eventual political and economic domination of the Empire was - but the result of stubborn personalities in the British government.

Besides the coverage of Cromwell and the English Civil War, the most interesting part of the book is how British culture and government went from, about circa 1740, explicitly rejecting a Roman style empire of occupation and all its attendant burdens and injustices, to Richard Wellesley's proconsulship in India. (The book really ends in 1800 India, not 1776, and the American Revolution is covered in full.)

Yes, Schama mentions the baser motives, deeds, and evils of this time including, of course, slavery. They have to be mentioned in such a general history, but the amount of time he spends on them is about right and not the obligatory genuflection to the modern Church of Imperial Guilt.

The broad outlines of this history were not new to me, but I learned many details I didn't know including some about the American Revolution. Since I'm not well-read about any of the events or personalities involved, I don't know what errors or questionable descriptions Schama has committed. (Though I do note that it is unlikely "The World Turned Upside Down" was played at Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.)

As with the first volume, Schama's experience as art historian and essayist serve him well. His chapters are long essays, ending and beginning neatly around a theme. He has a knack for picking vivid anecodotes and writing them up to neatly summarize a period. My favorite, the beginning of an account of the Glencoe Massacre: "In Williamite Britain, showing up late could get you killed." ( )
  RandyStafford | Jan 22, 2012 |
Cool
  Olya87 | Oct 8, 2009 |
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''The Wars of the British,'' as Schama calls this volume, is the wonderful, exhilarating tale of the protracted birth of a nation. As with all Schama's books the grand political narrative sweeps along on a sequence of anecdotes, vignettes and brilliant set pieces: the wonderfully racy, darkly humorous account of the death of the lord protector Oliver Cromwell; the sardonic portrait of British life in Madras and Calcutta; the horrors of the killing fields of Glencoe and Culloden. Perhaps the most powerful of them all, however, is the terrifying description of the fire of London in 1666, the greatest conflagration to have struck that or any other European city before the Blitz.
añadido por John_Vaughan | editarNY Times, Anthony Pagden (Jul 19, 2011)
 
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A History of Britain: The Wars of the British 1603-1776 was broken into two books for the large print edition. This is part one of the large print edition. Do not combine with part two of the large print edition or the single book edition.
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* 'Great Britain? What was that?' asks Simon Schama at the start of this, the second book of his epic three-volume journey into Britain's past. This volume, The British Wars, is a compelling chronicle of the changes that transformed every strand and stratum of British life, faith and thought from 1603 to 1776. Travelling up and down the country and across three continents, Schama explores the forces that tore Britain apart during two centuries of dynamic change - transforming outlooks, allegiances and boundaries.* From the beginning of the British wars in July 1637, for 200 years battles raged on - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.* The story of that great alteration is a story of revolution and reaction, inspiration and disenchantment, of progress and catastrophe, and Schama's evocative narrative brings it vividly to life.* From the beginning of the British wars in July 1637, for 200 years battles raged on - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.

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