A World By Itself:
A History Of The British Isles
In A World by Itself, six distinguished British historians offer the most definitive and compelling history of the British Isles to date.
Tracing the political, religious and material cultures from the Romans to the present day, this volume is at once an urgent reassessment of our shared past, and an inspirational celebration of British history.
It focuses on the major themes and most dramatic moments of the last two millenia, from the Romans to reformation, revolution to restoration, wars both civil and global, and the enduring question of what it means to be 'British'.
History, like the present, is always changing, and scholarship on the history of the British Isles is currently experiencing a golden age. The breakdown of modernism, the eclipse of the Marxist tradition and of the ‘Whig interpretation’ that sees all history as progress, combined with the trajectories of nationalism in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, have all generated unprecedented intellectual activity.
Nor has the world stood still: the collapse of communism, the issues of integration into the EU, and the advance of multiculturalism have led more and more people in the English-speaking world as a whole to sense that their collective landscape now looks profoundly different from that inhabited by their ancestors even a few decades ago.
UK publisher: Random House
Hardcover (Heinemann) January 2010 / Paperback: Expected 2011
US & Translation rights: JPLA
‘[a] thought provoking and uncompromising book…[which] will surely influence the way we regard ourselves and our country (not just Britain but also Scotland) in the years to come.’
Trevor Royle, Sunday Herald
‘[a] confident and fascinating history of Britain…There is a masterful account of the Reformation by Jenny Wormald, followed by a succinct analysis of the English Civil War…Skidelsky is characteristically deft on the interwar economy, lucidly charting the catastrophe of Treasury thinking on the gold standard, the collapse of Britain’s staple exports and its failure to grow new markets…a well-crafted, footnote-free and thorough history of the British Isles containing some brilliant set-pieces and narrative overviews. It is a volume that speaks well to our own sense of Britain today as a globalised, trading island retreating back to the edges of power…damned good.’
Tristram Hunt, Observer
‘In addressing the multiple-identity problems of the British Isles, this single-volume history manages to combine a balanced new survey of the past with a rousing declaration of the historian’s moral obligations. The book is an antidote to the excitable revisionism and literary extravagance of other recent histories – a welcome corrective to the wilder outbursts of the media-hungry dons and to the liberties taken by romping-royalty TV shows such as The Tudors. Best of all, its author are not ashamed to admit: “We just don’t know.”…A World By Itself…redraw[s] the broad outlines of Britain’s story, underscoring continuity as much as change and showing how unpredictable the nation’s history has always been. For these virtues – not to mention the lessons no the use and abuse of history – this is a very good book to have on the shelf.’
Christian Tyler, Financial Times
‘I thoroughly recommend the book, written by a collection of top-hole experts in their field, but for the general reader…The medieval bits are excellent, as is the section on the Civil War…This is a book…which any household would value, whether for widely read grown-ups or teenagers swotting for their GCSEs.’
AN Wilson, Reader’s Digest
‘[A World By Itself] tells how a small group of islands on the rain-swept edge of the Roman Empire came to shape the civilised world, effectively inventing parliamentary democracy, industrialisation, free trade and globalisation, as well as bequeathing to posterity the greatest body of literature on earth…As a book for specialists this has its pleasures…from Clark’s terrific analysis of 18th-century Britishness to Skidelsky’s acerbic treatment of Harold Wilson’s economic policy.’
Dominic Sandbrook, Telegraph