I’ve been submerging myself in history lectures, readings, podcasts and videos for many years of the last 30 years. Most recently my focus has seemed to be on British History including the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman/Plantagenet, Tudor, Stuart, and Modern periods. I thought I would document some of those resources here so I might see where there are gaps in my learning and the reader can consider pursuing some of these themselves.
The Great Courses
Story of Medieval England From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest – Jennifer Paxton, Catholic University of America. This is an excellent review of all the early history of Britain from the Roman occupation through Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman/Plantagenet periods. Ten lectures (each about 40 minutes long) are pre-Norman conquest, and the remaining 26 lectures deal with the complex post-Norman invasion politics, law and wars, as well as the daily life of the people, and how life changed over this long period.
The History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts – Robert Bucholz, Loyola University Chicago. These lectures expertly tell of the beginning of the modern age of Britain from King Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch to Queen Anne the last of the Stuarts. This story is very important in the history of Britain because it includes the break from Rome started by Henry VIII; the stabilizing reign of Elizabeth I which included the defeat of the Spanish Armada; the transition of power from Elizabeth I to James I made all the more interesting by the French ties to Mary Queen of Scots, the mother of James I; the unrest and resulting civil wars created by the conflict between protestant and catholic factions in Britain kept alive by the possibility of a catholic queen or king; the Glorious Revolution of 1888 that put the protestant William and Mary on the throne and included King William’s War with France and his William’s battles with Jacobins in Scotland and Ireland; and finally the culmination of the story with Queen Anne and Queen Anne’s War, also known as the second French and Indian War.
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire – Patrick N. Alitt, Emory University. From Queen Elizabeth’s reign in the late 16th, Britain acquired dominion, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territorial rights until in the early 20th century the British Empire influenced 23% of the world’s population (1), more than the Romans controlled at the peak of their empire. These lectures tell of the key wars, conquests, challenges to their authority, policy decisions and economic theories of empire, that led to this United Kingdom, and what happened to expedite Britain’s fall from power.
The Industrial Revolution – Patrick N. Alitt, Emory University. Though not all of the lectures are about Britain, most of the first 21 lectures of the total of 36 are about the Industrial Revolution in Britain where the first factories were founded starting in the late 1700s. Britain had the political stability, financial power, colonial trading relationships for raw materials, a rapidly growing population, and inventors with skills to innovate various processes and develop new machinery. The lectures cover the state of agriculture, manufacture and shipbuilding prior to the industrial revolution, and shows how these were transformed. In doing so Professor Alitt describes the early textile industry, coal mining and how it powered the revolution, iron-coking and puddling, the pottery business, the impact of Britain’s canals, and the development of steam technology and the resulting railway revolution. One particularly interesting lecture was how industry changed politics.
Churchill – J. Rufus Fears, University of Oklahoma. At the center of British politics through more than half of the 20th century, the story of Churchill’s contributions is inspiring. He was not only a great politician, but also a journalist and prolific writer, having written some classics about the world in which he lived, like the experiences he had during his years as a soldier of the British Empire from Afghanistan to Africa. The lectures take the listener through those early days and then his rise in political power to eventually become the prime minister of the United Kingdom for two terms of four years. Fears gives little attention to his later years as prime minister, and spends five of the 12 lectures about his leadership during the World War II.
The Plantagenets: Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England – Dan Jones. This book covers from the shipwreck that killed the son, William in line to be king of England and Normandy when Henry I died, and as a result the beginning of a sequence of civil wars that eventually established the first Plantagenet King, Henry II grandson of Henry I and son of Empress Matilda. It’s a very long story from that point through Richard I (the Lionhearted), John I, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III (2). There were constant fights with the barons of Britain during John’s reign to the Magna Carta, and then other kings pledged to agree to other constraints on their powers to tax and go to war. This did not stop the Plantagenets from a 100 year war with France that ended up with little long-term gain and eventual denial of a right to the French crown, a claim started by Edward III to start the 100 year war. This period was also marred by the period of the Black Death from 1348 to 1352 in Britain, and then repeated recurrences through out the late 14th and early 15th centuries. The book goes on through the ‘Wars of the Rose’ represented by fights for the crown between the Lancastrian and Yorkian lines to Edward III. Eventually the last of those battles was at Bosworth Field when the Lancastrian forces supporting Henry Tudor defeated the Yorkist King Richard III to end the reign of the Plantagenets.
Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart – John Guy. I listened to this book after watching the misleading Mary Queen of Scots Miniseries on Netflix (see below). Mary Stuart was crowned Queen of Scotland at nine months of age, she became Queen of France at sixteen, at eighteen she began ruling Scotland where she had to contend with divided catholic and protestant factions, as well as Queen Elizabeth I who she considered not as rightful of the English Crown as she. She primarily wanted to bring Scotland and England together, though she did want it to be her family succeeding to the Crown held by Elizabeth I. Due to Elizabeth’s advisors, like William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I was suspicious of plots by Mary to obtain the throne. Mary eventually married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and with him had a son, James who would ascend to the Scottish throne as James VI after Mary was forced to abdicate, primarily due to her catholic faith. As the result of another relationship, she was implicated in the murder of her husband, though the evidence may have been corrupted by her protestant enemies. Mary was captured and confined for 18.5 years by Elizabeth I. Found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586, again on questionable evidence, she was beheaded (3). However, when Elizabeth I died in 1903, James VI of Scotland, Mary’s son, was named King of England, and so began the Stuart line of English Kings (4).
Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets – John Woolf. As an Audible book, this is a tour guide’s story of how Victorian society was not as prudish as we are told to believe. Instead this book mentions particular instances of sex scandals and other cover ups that uncover the truth – that a Victorian was not as prudish as you may think. Not sure how much history this book provides but it’s an entertaining tale to listen to.
The British History Podcast – Jamie Jeffers. This podcast is the most thorough British history story ever produced. Jeffers started in 2011 producing regular podcasts starting with the history of Britain in the Ice Ages and going meticulously for 345 episodes, approximately 30 minutes each, and he has only reached the early 11th century. I haven’t gotten past the 140th episode about the early Anglo-Saxon history of 686-692. Jeffers attempts to address the conflicts he reads from the sources he uses, and does a lot of speculating as well based as best as he can on the information from the sources. His style is rather playful and entertaining, and he has to be to go into the detail he has decided to pursue in this podcast.
History Extra Podcast – BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC Histories Magazine. These podcasts are professionally done by an established history article publisher. It features interviews with historians talking about topics to include much of British history. For instance, recently they did a podcast of the mistresses of Charles II, and about the Black Death and social change. I’ve actually listened to very few of these podcasts, but consider it a source if I need material about a particular historical subject.
My blog is, of course, not the only blog about history, nor is it this or my other posts about British History the only posts in this category. Here are some others:
- The Historical Diaries by Samantha James
- History Matters – Britain & Ireland by Various Authors sponsored by Department of History, University of Sheffield
- British History Online by Various Authors sponsored by Institute of History Research
There are so many videos I have been watching that relate to my interest in British History, that for now I just want to list them. Maybe in the future, I’ll do a blog that provides more detail. I do provide links here so you can pursue a particular item that intrigues you.
- “British Empire.” In Wikipedia, April 4, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=British_Empire&oldid=949119037.
- “House of Plantagenet.” In Wikipedia, April 20, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=House_of_Plantagenet&oldid=952040849.
- “Mary, Queen of Scots.” In Wikipedia, April 20, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mary,_Queen_of_Scots&oldid=952145780.
- “James VI and I.” In Wikipedia, April 14, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_VI_and_I&oldid=950863335.