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The Shortest History of England

Empire and Division from the Anglo-Saxons to Brexit

By James Hawes

England’s history retold for the modern age—from Caesar to Brexit via Conquest, Empire, and world wars
In nations across the world, political divides seem to loom wider than ever before. Whether in the United States or England, many people are frustrated with the inability of different ideologies, or even different regions of the same country, to find a middle ground and understand each other’s viewpoints. It’s easy to see this extreme polarization as a modern phenomenon—but looking closely at English history reveals that this North Atlantic nation has been deeply divided across 2,000 years (and even before the first humans made its land their home). England’s historical and present dominance over the other countries in the UK means this split reverberates across the entire kingdom, with repercussions for all its interactions on the global stage.
Every moment of England’s past is colored by its geographical and cultural split into two regions—north and south. As the country dealt with outside pressures such as colonizing Romans, Germanic settlers, and Danish and Norman invaders over the centuries, it also faced a battle within between the more privileged southern elite and the northern people who resisted southern domination. The Shortest History of England links these earlier struggles to England’s uncertain present and future, with fascinating aspects of the nation’s history playing starring roles, such as:
  • The constant political tug-of-war between the crown and Parliament, with a beheaded king and the Magna Carta at the center
  • Linguistic conflict between the haves and the have-nots as French became the language of the elite, leading to the Frenchified Northern way of speaking “correct” English still dominating today
  • Wars, wars, and more wars—from the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, to the Wars of the Roses between northern and southern England, to World War I and II
  • Religious battles as the Reformation split the country into Catholic versus Protestant
  • The rise of an empire stretching across America, India, Africa, and Australia—and its fall
  • Populism’s modern ascendancy with the help of Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Farage as well as the UKIP party
  • And the empire’s decline from the inside, with Ireland breaking away from the UK, the UK breaking away from the EU, and Scottish independence
All of these events and more are conveyed in author James Hawes’s succinct, incisive voice, accompanied by over 150 maps, images, and diagrams. The Shortest History of England offers the most direct and compelling route to understanding the division driving the events of modern-day England—and those of many other countries in the Western world.

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James Hawes

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Review quotes
Praise from the UK
“James Hawes's view of English history is sharp and vivid and extremely persuasive.”—Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy
“No one writes history as well as James Hawes or uses the past to make sense of the present so skilfully. This is an urgent and electrifying work that takes you to the heart of England's sickness. Do yourself a favour and read it.”—Nick Cohen, journalist for The Observer
“A thorough and absorbing investigation of the English story . . . Perhaps [Hawes's] greatest skill is in how he brings the story right up to date, able to step back from the current madness with admirable clarity to separate wood and trees in a way most of us would find impossible.”—The New European

Praise for The Shortest History of Germany

A #1 International Bestseller
Der Spiegel "Most Provoking Book of the Year"

“A rapid-paced, thought-provoking, easy-to-digest account of German history.”—Library Journal

“A fast-moving encapsulation of German history focusing on the thesis that Prussia’s aggression was a short-lived anomaly in the big picture and not reflective of the true German spirit . . . A marvelously concise effort, especially compelling as Angela Merkel is set to step down in 2021, leaving an uncertain vacuum in Europe.”Kirkus Reviews

“In this ‘shortest history,’ Hawes conquers the dense task of recounting the story of the land and people of what is now Germany over the last two millennia . . . [He] does a good job guiding readers . . . pointing out parallels to today and arguing that Germany’s history, long-ago and recent, makes it a key, if not the key, player in world leadership.”—Booklist

“James Hawes condenses two millennia into a zippy 256 pages. Breezy yet knowledgeable, the book provides a thorough grounding in the major historical events and religious and regional differences that shaped the country at the very heart of Europe.”Foreword Reviews

“With this pocket-size history, Hawes delivers a wide-ranging yet precise chronicle of political leaders who have served and shaped what is now Germany. . . . This clearly presented history will be of particular interest to readers following the political machinations of the European Union.”—Publishers Weekly
Product Details
Shortest History Series
Number of pages
Publication date
March 29, 2022