Robert Tombs, *The English and Their History*

I ordered this book through the UK, as it does yet have a U.S. publication date on Amazon.  It has a fascinating 891 pp. of text (and an excellent annotated bibliography), virtually all of which are worth reading.  In just about any year it is one of the top five non-fiction books of that year.  I found it especially strong on English-French relations, and early modern times, and perhaps a bit weak on post-1970 developments, which are in any case harder to cover.

It is not an easy book to excerpt but here is one short bit on Shakespeare:

…at deeper levels he is astonishingly not the product of his times, which is an evident reason for the continuing power of his work.  Most obviously, he is not dogmatic; he displays a wide variety of cultural and religious influences, but is not defined by the religious conflict that shaped his time — hence continuing modern debate about his personal beliefs.  He pays little respect to social and gender hierarchy.  He writes of a ‘deep England’, beyond London and the court.  Women are always important and often dominant in his plays, and women came in large numbers to see them, scandalizing foreign visitors.  It is often said that he conceals his opinions; it seems rather that the ideas he explores transcend the limits of contemporary polemics.

Definitely recommended, I quickly became addicted to this book.  Do any of you know when it will have a formal release on this side of the Atlantic?


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