May 4, 2012 at 12:55 am #15508
I love learning through fiction and I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for good british history novels, especially roman and celtic britain.There are a couple of phenomenal books that i have read and highly recommend. They are great for exploring the celtic culture, history and myths. Both are written by the author Stephen Lawhead. The first is a trilogy called The Song of Albion. This book series really explores the realm of celtic mythology and just everyday life. It's an exciting story filled with gory battles and amazing characters. Don't be discouraged by the slow beginning of the first book, about halfway through the novel the story really picks up and gets exciting. The next series is the Pendragon cycle. It's all about the myth/history of King Arthur told in the context of post-roman celtic britain. Both of these series are filled with a great historian's interpretation of the old celtic myths and culture. You get a phenomenal look into the everyday life of everyday celts.
May 8, 2012 at 3:23 am #17608
The entire book isn't about them, but the Picts (and Hadrian's Wall!) show up in Christopher Moore's latest book, “Sacre Bleu.” ;D Per all of his books, they show up fictionalized, but you know, it could have happened like that… I don't think this is quite the book you're looking for, but hey, this was the first time I've ever come across Picts in a fictional work! (Also, fun if you're any fan of Impressionist/Post-Impressionist/French artists. Yes, there are pictures.)
May 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm #17609
Jonny the GrognardParticipant
May 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm #17610
The discussion of the British History Book Club has been moved to it's own topic. http://thebritishhistorypodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=222.0
May 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm #17611
I thoroughly enjoyed Bernard Cornwell's trilogy about Arthur (although the focus isn't about him being a king but more so a steward looking after the kindom): 'The Winter King', 'Enemy of God' and 'Excalibur'…..engrossing right to the end. It has a different take on the popular myths but there are many similarities and the characters are likable apart from Mordred, who is just a complete idiot, Lancelot who is a total and utter self-obsessed coward and Nimue who turns out to be an evil and psychotic sadist hell-bent on druidic domination. Great stuff! I could literally spend hours talking about this and have done so in the past with a few friends who have also read these books; surprising how it is usually after a few pints in our local.I also like Cornwell's 'Sharpe' series set during the Napoleonic era. If anyone is familiar with the character Richard Sharpe from the popular tv series then you'd like these as well. Sharpe is just a decent and likable character who starts out as a private and rises through the ranks to become a Lieutenant Colonel and one of the most respected officers in the British Army.
February 13, 2013 at 4:01 am #17612
That whole series of books by Cornwell is excellent. It got me to start being fascinated by Post-Roman Britain.
February 15, 2013 at 6:12 am #17613
I haven't read Cornwell's Arthurian trilogy, although I have enjoyed his Saxon books (w/ Uhtred and King Alfred). But for the Arthurian period, I really enjoyed Helen Hollick's Arthurian trilogy. Unlike a lot of other Arthurian books, she omits all the magic/Merlin/Lancelot stuff that was added later by the Normans, and concentrates on what actually “might have been”, if you assume that the myth actually has some basis in fact. She does add connections to pretty much every name you've heard of from that period (so Gwenhwyfar is the daughter of Cunedda, and, IIRC, Cerdic is Arthur's bastard son by I think Hengest's daughter!) but pretty much any Arthurian book is going to involve some suspension of disbelief, and at least she's trying to bring in actual history!I also liked her books on King Harold and Queen Emma, but of course we haven't gotten that far yet...
February 15, 2013 at 6:43 am #17614
I have a few recommendations by James Reston Jr. that I think everyone would like. He has a set of three books that cover much of Medi Eval Europe. The first is The Last Apocalypse: The Year 1000 AD. It covers the Viking transition to Christianity and conquering of large parts of Europe. Very interesting book and a different take on the rise of Christianity in Europe. The next is Warriors of God and it is a different perspective of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. It covers Richard's rise to power, his relationship with Phillip and Saladin and the crusades. At times it can seem a bit historically bias and some of the information (more personal, such as Richard's sexuality) is questionable but all together an excellent read.The third and finale is a masterpiece and it is called Dogs of God and it covers Columbus and the Inquisition. All together awesome read about Europe during the time of the American discovery. Hope this is helpful!
April 11, 2013 at 9:14 pm #17615
I highly recommend a fictional trilogy of the Middle Ages by Sharon Kay Penman. The books are There be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning. She also wrote a great novel about Richard Lionheart called, of course Lionheart.
July 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm #17616
as a child I adored Henry Treece's books – they definitely sparked my love of history
July 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm #17617
Let's see if I can revive this old thread …This is a bit more recent history than the other books, but I really like Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander" books, the basis for the Peter Weir film from a few years ago. They are a series of 20 books about the adventures of Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe in the film) and Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany in the film).Aubrey is an officer in the Royal Navy, captaining ships and moving through the ranks, Maturin is an Irish-Catalan natural philosopher (scientist) and spy and the two are close friends who work together most of the time.In addition to being good adventure stories, the books aim to be as historically accurate as possible when describing shipboard life, naval warfare, naval politics, etc. of the period (early 1800s).alan
August 20, 2013 at 7:26 am #17618
@tipo158 – The Aubrey/Maturin books are some of my very favorites as well; although there are high points and low points as in all series, they almost hang together as one gigantic novel The characters are beautifully developed; it's as compelling a portrait of a loyal but complicated friendship as I can think of – even though on the face of it they have nothing in common but a love of music and coffee. Another thing I've noticed about the books is that O'Brian seems to have consciously drawn Jane Austen's world from the other side; during the interludes when they're on shore (especially before Jack and Sophia finally get married) it feels like you're getting a glimpse into the man's side of “Pride and Prejudice”.
August 20, 2013 at 7:31 am #17619
It's not even remotely intended to be historical… but for lovers of the Arthurian legends, I highly, highly recommend Arthur Rex. It will make you laugh out loud in places, and in others it will make you cry your eyes out – maybe more so because it's been so funny up till then. Again, Berger isn't even trying to be historical – but still, you gotta read it.
August 29, 2013 at 2:57 am #17620
This summer I'm doing a British history-o-rama with listening to the BHP and reading a couple of British history type books. One is historical fiction and its called “London” by Edward Rutherfurd, and it's my second time reading this book. It has the history of London as the backdrop for fictional stories about generations of Londoners. I like his straight forward way of writing. Edward Rutherford has also written “Sarum” and “The Forest” which are also fictional books about the histories of specific regions of England. I've read Sarum (and enjoyed it) but haven't read The Forest yet. I am also reading a non-fiction, textbook-like book called, “The Land and Literature of England” by Robert M. Adams which, so far, is pretty close to Jamie's version, except that this author holds with the cruel, plundering, slash-and-burn pirate image of the Anglo Saxons.
August 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm #17621
I'm hooked on Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I like how it's a fun read but huge books. I do love a good, thick book to climb into. It's definitely fiction, it is about time travel after all, but she does a wonderful job of describing the surroundings of Scotland, England and America in a historical context. Her attention to detail is wonderful.Philippa Gregory is a good writer if you want to learn more about British queens in a fictional way. Her writing is a bit soap-opera-ish but let's face it, their lives were soap operas!Susan
September 12, 2013 at 12:43 am #17622
At the moment I'm reading “Jews in the Roman World” which is a basic historical overview of the political-religious history of the Jews from the building of the Second Temple (see: Book of Ezra) through (I think…haven't gotten that far yet) the Bar Kochba Revolt. It's a decent popular-style history but has some reference footnotes. Aside from learning about my own history, I'm trying to prepare a Jewish history podcast (with all the free time I have working 60hrs a week and dealing with two small kids!)...so getting an idea of how to structure a coherent narrative that isn't dry and full of asides every 3 seconds.
March 19, 2016 at 6:42 am #17623
I also read Edward Rutherford's “London”, “Sarum” and “The Forest” and thought they were marvelous. I have gone on holiday to the New Forest (the area in “The Forest” most summers since I was a kid and we went camping there more years ago than I care to disclose. The New Forest is in Hampshire, between Southampton and Bournmouth on the South Coast of England and it's beautiful and very old, codified by William the Conquerer around 1000 years ago as his personal Royal hunting ground but going back even beyond that relatively unchanged. The New Forest has a ready supply of flint everywhere (just look around your feet if you're not on a paved road and you'll see flint within 10 feet of where you are standing), so it must have been a paradise for stone age peoples. We buried our childhood dog in the side of an ancient burial mound on the heathland there, in amongst the flint and rabbit holes and ghosts of long forgotten warriors. Or at least, that's what my mum said the hill was, it's possible she was just stoking my interest in ancient British history with her lively imagination.I guess it worked. Incidentally Edward Rutherfurd has also written books based on other cities in other countries too. He takes a place and follows it's people from very early history through the centuries, in a very thoughtful and compelling way. Taking history and making it about people, showing how the culture and geography of the place they live in affects their psyche and their lives.The New Forest is an interesting place to understand British history from as it's rules and way of life today harken back to how common people lived centuries ago. Commoners grazing rights meaning some people can turn their animals (horses, cows, donkeys, pigs) loose to roam free over the entire area (which is about 150 square miles of heath and forest land fenced in with cattle grids across every exit road to keep the animals in), annual livestock roundups, pony sales, small villages with thriving local craft artisans, Forest Verderers who look after the land and hold Agister's courts to sort out disputes about local issues. As well as grazing rights, there are also some rights to mast (meaning to turn your pigs out on the land in Autumn to eat Haycorns) and to collect firewood and turf. I could be wrong, but I believe these rights come with certain cottages in the New Forest, although they might be passed down in families, I'm not sure, they are written down in "the Atlas".
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