6 Must-Read Books About British History

By August 25, 2017Literature

As with our previous article focussed on the history of America, this list of historical non-fiction offers a no-holds-barred look at what made the UK what it is today.

Contrary to what many of us were taught in school, British history was not all glory and pride… Much of what made us ‘great’ was built upon the backs of oppressed and disenfranchised innocents. From well before the ‘Great Roman Empire’ to the ‘Great British Empire’ and beyond, British history is both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure.

Let us not forget what this country was built upon, and let us always remember why threads of racial and class prejudice still run through our societies today.

The following list would be a great start for any budding historian intent on having a honest and true account of how Great Britain became the mixing pot of cultures and communities it is today.




“British history is traditionally regarded as having started with the Roman Conquest. But this is to ignore half a million years of prehistory that still exert a profound influence. Here Francis Pryor examines the great ceremonial landscapes of Ancient Britain and Ireland – Stonehenge, Seahenge, Avebury and the Bend of the Boyne – as well as the discarded artefacts of day-to-day life, to create an astonishing portrait of our ancestors. This major re-revaluation of pre-Roman Britain, made possible in part by aerial photography and coastal erosion, reveals a much more sophisticated life in Ancient Britain and Ireland than has previously been supposed.”

“The complete set of all three paperback volumes of Simon Schama’s compelling history of Britain. ‘History clings tight but it also kicks loose’ writes Simon Schama at the outset of his epic three-volume journey into Britain’s past. Disruption as much as persistence is its proper subject. So although the great theme of British history seen from the twentieth century is endurance, it’s counterpoint seen from the twenty-first must be alteration. Change – sometimes gentle and subtle sometimes shocking and violent – is the dynamic of Schama’s unapologetically personal, grippingly written history, especially the changes that wash over custom and habit, transforming our loyalties. From early England and the Tudors through the British Wars of the 17th century to the rise and fall of the British Empire, award-winning historian Simon Schama illuminates British history through a variety of historical themes and key British characters.”

“In this first full-scale treatment of Britain’s relationship with the surrounding oceans, Glen O’Hara examines the history of British people’s maritime lives and, in turn, the formation of British cultural identities. A lens through which to view British life, Britain and the Sea spans more than 400 years, beginning in 1600 and taking us through to the present day. Tying together every aspect in the development of Great Britain, from state formation, industrialization and modernization, through to histories of transport, migration, slavery, warfare and crime, this book illustrates how the rich tapestry of Britain’s narrative was decided not among the fields of the ‘green and pleasant land’, but out at sea.”

“Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’ and the global slave-trading empire. It shows that the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery, and that black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of both World Wars. Black British history is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. It is not a singular history, but one that belongs to us all. Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how the lives of black and white Britons have been entwined for centuries.”

“In the eighteenth century, India’s share of the world economy was as large as Europe’s. By 1947, after two centuries of British rule, it had decreased six-fold. The Empire blew rebels from cannon, massacred unarmed protesters, entrenched institutionalised racism, and caused millions to die from starvation. British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed, but Shashi Tharoor takes demolishes this position, demonstrating how every supposed imperial ‘gift’ – from the railways to the rule of law – was designed in Britain’s interests alone. He goes on to show how Britain’s Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialisation, and the destruction of its textile industry. In this bold and incisive reassessment of colonialism, Tharoor exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.”

“Pauperland is Jeremy Seabrook’s account of the mutations of poverty over time, historical attitudes to the poor, and the lives of the impoverished themselves, from early Poor Laws till today. He explains how in the medieval world, wealth was regarded as the greatest moral danger to society, yet by the industrial era, poverty was the most significant threat to social order. How did this change come about, and how did the poor, rather than the rich, find themselves blamed for much of what is wrong with Britain, including such familiar-and ancient-scourges as crime, family breakdown and addictions? How did it become the fate of the poor to be condemned to perpetual punishment and public opprobrium, the useful scapegoat of politicians and the media? Pauperland charts how such attitudes were shaped by ill-conceived and ill-executed private and state intervention, and how these are likely to frame ongoing discussions of and responses to poverty in Britain.”




Julia Roberts to star in Chris Cleave novel adaptation

By | Adaptations, Literature | No Comments
Chris Cleave’s ambitious and powerful novel The Other Hand, known in the USA as Little Bee, is being adapted for Amazon this year.

The novel is a dual-narrative story which follows an asylum-seeker (Little Bee) from Nigeria and a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta, then re-unite in England many years later. The Other Hand humanises asylum-seekers in the UK and the struggles they go through. Cleave examines the asylum system in Britain, and how the country treats refugees. He also touches upon the very relevant subjects of British colonialism and globalisation.

Amazon Studios plan to adapt this passionate and humane book, and Hollywood star Julia Roberts has also jumped at the chance to get involved.

The Wonder actor will play the character Sarah O’ Rourke, the magazine editor who meets Little Bee during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta. She is also producing the project with Red Om Films.

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J. K. Rowling and Stan Lee inducted into Sci-Fi and Fantasy Hall of Fame

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J. K. Rowling has been named as one of the writers to be inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame along with Marvel grandaddy Stan Lee.

The hall of fame for sci-fi and fantasy has been going since 1996 and Lee will be the first comic book writer to be included. Both he and Rowling have made a significant impact on the world of pop culture this past decade, with a stream of books and movies and an ever-expanding universe for both Marvel and the Potter fandom.

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Neil Gaiman’s Favourite Science Fiction Books

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Neil Gaiman was speaking to the BBC’s Front Row last month about the film adaptation of his story How to Talk to Girls at Parties as it hit UK cinemas.

As many good writers know one key to great writing is a lot of reading- and Gaiman is no different. His love for writing goes hand-in-hand with reading, so the BBC asked for his favourite science fiction novels.

These are the books he decided upon…

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Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner is Announced.

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Following the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist announcement on International Women’s Day 2018, and then the shortlist announced in April 2018, the judges have decided upon a winner.

The 16 original books were read and discussed by the panel of judges- Sarah Sands, Katy Brand, Anita Anand, Catherine Mayer, and Imogen Stubbs- and whittled down to a final fantastic 6. After much deliberation those 6 were discussed and debated until one winner was decided upon.

Congratulations to the winner- Kamila Shamsie with Home Fire. 

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Were Roald Dahl and Terry Pratchett pen-pals?

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When he was young Terry Pratchett worked as a reporter for the Bucks Free Press. On the 25th of April in 1969, the fresh-faced Terry (using his full name- Terence) wrote to famous author Roald Dahl to ask for an interview. Letters from the Roald Dahl Museum’s Archive show the communication between Pratchett and Dahl. Despite this tantalising look at what would’ve been a fabulous interview of two hilarious and creative minds- no other letters have been discovered, and no record yet of the interview.

Fingers crossed something emerges in the future…

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Famous Authors Are Donating Thousands of Books to Help Support Oxfam

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Margaret Atwood, Paula Hawkins, Neil Gaiman and Robert Webb are among a plethora of authors who will be donating thousands of books to the Oxfam today in an effort to raise money and support the charity. Writer Eric Ngalle Charles is launching the #BooksChangeLives campaign today (May 30) at the Hay Festival. The campaign encourages readers to share books that changed their lives on social media and donate unwanted books to their local Oxfam shops.

Several famed authors have been revealing titles which changed their lives and impacted them as a writer. Dolly Alderton, author of Everything I Know About Love, opted for The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks. “It taught me so much about men and women – about love and relationship dynamics and the myths we’re fed about romance,” she said. Read More

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