English History Made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable
The cover of this slim, informative volume suggests at first glance something in the spirit of A’Beckett’s The Comic History of England, or Dickens’s A Child’s History of England. But unlike its predecessors, Smith’s lightning study of the island nation’s convoluted history does not seek to have readers clutching their bellies in helpless laughter. This volume, although certainly pleasurable to read as the title promises, is rather a serious, scholarly, trenchant romp through the centuries, informed by contemporary history studies. Smith’s ability to weave in cultural and economic details rather than focusing simply on monarchs and battles will give fresh food for thought to the enthusiast and amateur alike. Peppered throughout with tongue-in-cheek illustrations (as of a jubilant Philip dancing a jig upon hearing of his wife Mary Tudor’s death, or British bureaucrats at work on a Rube Goldberg kind of contraption), English History Made Brief takes us from the earliest origins of Angles and Celts through recent history, including the world wars and Thatcherism, and ending with a lengthy chapter titled “The Royal Soap Opera.” It makes a fast yet meaty read, and will be invaluable to anyone interested in having a better, more updated understanding of English history.