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 island in the North Atlantic has been deeply divided across 2,000 years (and even before the first humans made its land their home).
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 like 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 like these playing starring roles:
- 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. Understanding England’s history is key to understanding the division that drives its modern events—and the destinies of many other countries in the Western world—and there is no better way to learn than this compact yet powerful narrative.