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A Short History of England

G. K. Chesterton

Book Overview: 

“But it is especially in the matter of the Middle Ages that the popular histories trample upon the popular traditions. In this respect there is an almost comic contrast between the general information provided about England in the last two or three centuries, in which its present industrial system was being built up, and the general information given about the preceding centuries, which we call broadly mediaeval. “

As this quotation taken from the Introduction clearly shows, he is no mere pedant reciting dry dates and locations, but a profound thinker flooding new light onto those modern “myths” that have filled our histories. He is a master of paradox, and the technique of reducing his opponents arguments to the logical absurdity they have inherent in them. He often turns them upside down. All of which makes his work both a sound subject for reflection and highly entertaining all the while it remains permanently timely.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .He was loyal to the kingdom he had not yet made. Thus the Norman Bruce becomes a Scot; thus the descendant of the Norman Strongbow becomes an Irishman. No men less than Normans can be conceived as remaining as a superior caste until the present time. But this alien and adventurous loyalty in the Norman, which appears in these other national histories, appears most strongly of all in the history we have here to follow. The Duke of Normandy does become a real King of England; his claim through the Confessor, his election by the Council, even his symbolic handfuls of the soil of Sussex, these are not altogether empty forms. And though both phrases would be inaccurate, it is very much nearer the truth to call William the first of the English than to call Harold the last of them.

An indeterminate debate touching the dim races that mixed without record in that dim epoch, has made much of the fact that the Norman edges of France, like the East Anglian edges of England, . . . Read More

Community Reviews

As much as I love the works of G K Chesterton, I am forced to admit that A Short History Of England is not one of his best works. Chesterton just does not do well on more lengthy, sustained polemics. It is only when he can break his work down into individual essays, such as in Orthodoxy and Heretics

Having panned a recent "short history". I sought a good "short history." I stumbled across G. K. Chesterton's A Short History of England, which I tried because of previous experience with his writings.

I was disappointed. The book is incorrectly titled. It should have been "A Short Commentary on the

This is called a "Short History," but it is more of a commentary on England's history and ruminations on the concept of Englishness rather than a pure chronology. Chesterton takes a rather romaticized view of the absolute monarchy of olden times and naturally gets increasingly more political as his

This little book wasn't at all what I was expecting. It didn't go through a list of kings, for example, but instead explored the broader, bigger happenings that shaped England, and gave me a lot to think about regarding government.

I have some friends and acquaintances that really think a lot of G.K. Chesterton. So I thought that I would read a few of his books. This was my second book by him (after The Man Who Was Thursday). I am told that he was the C.S. Lewis of his generation and that he had written many profound things. S

Chesterton se propone corregir el punto de vista dominante entre los historiadores de Inglaterra. El maestro de la paradoja llega a una paradoja: propone la misma conclusión que intentaba corregir. La esencia inglesa según Chesterton es la aristocracia, creadora del Parlamento Inglés y del Imperio B

A short re-telling of England's history that you aren't going to find in any textbook. Chesterton's unique perspective as a Catholic and as a collectivist are all reflected in his interpretation of everything from the dissolution of the monasteries to the poor laws of the 19th and 20th centuries. If

Chesterton assumes you have an intimate knowledge of English history from the Roman world to WWI and proceeds to write in rather sweeping generalizations about the spirit of each age and transitions between. Even though I didn't catch every historical reference, I still enjoyed reading this simply b

I really wish I had time to do this book justice. There was definitely a lot I had to look up and a lot that I didn't take the time to and so didn't know the references. It is such a slender volume to cover such a length of time for such a famous country. (imagine just trying to read short histories

Chesterton’s brief history is a secondary source, at best, or more likely even tertiary. Either way, it is farthest away from being a primary source narrative as you can get. It relies less on historical dates than it does upon historical theory. Which is simultaneously its greatest strength and wea

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