Eng­land’s for­got­ten Past

Ex­plor­ing the over­looked episodes of English his­tory

All About History - - REVIEWS -

Au­thor Richard Tames Pub­lisher Thames & Hud­son Price £9 Re­leased Out now

It’s no se­cret that Eng­land is a country steeped in dra­matic his­tory. From bloody strug­gles for royal supremacy to the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, the land of the An­gles has wit­nessed more than enough to fill count­less his­tory books. Yet some­how, a lot of its most in­ter­est­ing mo­ments seem to have been com­pletely for­got­ten. Step for­ward Richard Tames.

Di­vided into sec­tions and adorned with images, Tames’ work is the very def­i­ni­tion of an in­trigu­ing cof­fee-ta­ble read – but putting this book down for a mo­ment proved rather dif­fi­cult. A re­lent­less stream of eye­brow-rais­ing facts and strange anec­dotes is an ir­re­sistible com­bi­na­tion.

Be­gin­ning with such early nuggets as the first writ­ten record of the Bri­tish Isles, penned by the Greek Pyth­eas of Mar­seilles in the 4th cen­tury BCE, who de­scribed its in­hab­i­tants as “painted peo­ple”, Tames takes the reader on a ram­page across the na­tion, examining the truth be­hind some sup­posed ‘facts’ while re­veal­ing a host of ut­terly ig­nored fig­ures and events.

Take, for ex­am­ple, Daniel Men­doza, Eng­land’s undis­puted box­ing cham­pion from 1792 to 1795, ar­chi­tect of con­nect­ing a range of punches in a com­bi­na­tion and the country’s first sport­ing su­per­star. Then there’s Alexis Soyer, the founder of army cater­ing and the 19th cen­tury’s an­swer to Jamie Oliver. There are also the ten oc­ca­sions since 1066 on which Eng­land found it­self the sub­ject of an in­va­sion, from Henry of An­jou’s un­re­lent­ing raids in the 1100s to the thwarted ef­forts of 1,400 French sol­diers in 1797 – they failed to take Bris­tol but wasted lit­tle time in sam­pling Eng­land’s al­co­holic of­fer­ings.

It mat­ters not whether you are a his­tor­i­cal am­a­teur or aca­demic – this en­light­en­ing de­pos­i­tory of time­less tit­bits is sure to both chal­lenge pre­con­ceived ideas and re­in­force a love of Eng­land’s grip­ping jour­ney to date.

Evoca­tive Pow­er­ful Res­o­nant Quirky Amus­ing En­gag­ing

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