Foundation: The History of England from its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors
This volume is the first in an anticipated six-volume history Ackroyd is writing following England from its first inhabitants to the present day. This installment begins with the first people to settle England and ends with the death of Henry VII.
Ackroyd is known for his ability to bring history to life with his original insights and aptitude for making nonfiction read like a novel, so it is surprising this book feels a little flat. Perhaps because of its epic scope, it often reads like a dry summary of battles and the succession of kings. Interspersed are some chapters on daily life during the period, describing housing, the weather, and medical practices. These chapters are engaging and leave the reader wanting more. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. The book picks up a little with the rule of Richard I, but even Ackroyd’s depiction of Henry II’s sons’ battle against their father (and each other) for power lacks the drama one might expect.
Not a book for the casual reader. Recommended for only the most serious history enthusiasts.