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National history (UK)

foundationFoundation: The History of England
(History of England: book 1)
Peter Ackroyd
(UK: Macmillan, 2011; USA: St Martins Griffin, 2013)

Having written enthralling biographies of London and of its great river, the Thames, Peter Ackroyd now turns to England itself. This first volume of six takes us from the time that England was first settled, more than 15,000 years ago, to the death in 1509 of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII.

In this first volume, Ackroyd takes us from Neolithic England, which we can only see in the most tantalising glimpses – a stirrup found in a grave, some seeds at the bottom of a bowl – to the long period of Roman rule; from the Dark Ages when England was invaded by a ceaseless tide of Angles, Saxons and Jutes, to the twin glories of medieval England – its great churches and monasteries and its common law. With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place, he tells the familiar story of king succeeding king in rich prose, with profound insight and some surprising details. The food we ate, the clothes we wore, the punishments we endured, even the jokes we told are all found here, too.

Recommended by:
Christopher NorrisJolabokaflod Book Campaign

Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine or Amazon (Foundation: The History of England)
Available in the USA at Amazon (Foundation: The History of England from its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors)

privatelivestudorsThe Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty
Tracy Borman
(UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016; USA: Grove Press, 2016)

The Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers. Even in their most private moments, they were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed.

These attendants knew the truth behind the glamorous exterior. They saw the tears shed by Henry VII upon the death of his son Arthur. They knew the tragic secret behind ‘Bloody’ Mary’s phantom pregnancies. And they saw the ‘crooked carcass’ beneath Elizabeth I’s carefully applied makeup, gowns and accessories.

It is the accounts of these eyewitnesses, as well as a rich array of other contemporary sources that historian Tracy Borman has examined more closely than ever before. With new insights and discoveries, and in the same way that she brilliantly illuminated the real Thomas Cromwell The Private Life of the Tudors reveals previously unexamined details about the characters we think we know so well.

Recommended by:
Emma DaleyEmma Daley PR

Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine or Amazon (The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty)
Available in the USA via Amazon (The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty)

horriblexmasHorrible Christmas
(Horrible Histories series)
Terry Deary and Martin Brown (illustrator)
(UK: Scholastic, 2016)

Horrible Christmas is filled with all the festive facts every ‘Horrible Histories’ reader wanted to know, but were too stuffed full of mince pies to ask! The complete horrible history of Christmas tells tales from the dark days when the Puritans tried to abolish Christmas, to Christmas in the trenches when the British and Germans traded bullets for footballs. Plus dreadful jokes, rotten recipes, and a Christmas quiz!

Recommended by:
Liz Fay

Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine or Amazon (Horrible Christmas)