By Simon Jenkins

The heroes and villains, triumphs and failures of English background are immediately familiar—from the Norman Conquest to Henry VIII, Queen Victoria to the 2 international Wars. yet to appreciate their complete importance we have to recognize the total story.

A brief background of England sheds new mild on all of the key members and occasions in English background by way of bringing them jointly in an enlightening account of the country’s start, upward push to international prominence, after which partial eclipse. Written with aptitude and authority through Guardian columnist and London Times former editor Simon Jenkins, this is often the definitive narrative of the way today’s England got here to be. Concise yet finished, with greater than 100 colour illustrations, this pretty single-volume historical past stands out as the typical paintings for years to come.

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By the time of his death in 690 he had established fourteen territorial bishoprics under Canterbury. The kings of Kent and Wessex were encouraged to write new legal codes based on those throughout the papal domains, exempting the church from civil duties and laying down rules for social and marital conduct. Penalties for theft, violence and trespass recognised a hierarchy under the king, where bishops ranked with thanes and clergymen with ceorls. England might still have been disunited politically at the end of the seventh century but the synod of Whitby saw it join the mainstream of Europe’s ecclesiastical culture.

Norman politics, language and culture entered the bloodstream of Saxon England. For four centuries it was unhappily and bloodily wedded to continental Europe. The Conqueror’s Children 1087 - 1154 THE INSTITUTIONS OF a medieval state were rarely strong enough to survive a monarch’s death unchanged. For all the rituals of inheritance and anointment, power defaulted to military strength. The death of the Conqueror left his eldest son, Robert Curthose (or short-stocking), inheriting the senior family domain of Normandy, while the next son, William, took the richer property of England.

The oaths Saxons swore bound them to those whose lineage they shared and with whom they tilled the earth. This contractual ‘consent to power’, as distinct from ancient British tribalism and Norman ducal authority, was described by later law-givers as habitual ‘since time out of mind’. It found its apogee in the representation of leading citizens on the king’s ‘witengemot’ or witan, most primitive precursor of parliament. To Victorian romantics all this was a dim Saxon echo of what the Greeks called democracy.

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