Review: This Sceptred Isle: Empire, Vol. 2, Christopher Lee

Rating: 5 out of 5

This is a superb overview of the problems and successes of the British in about a hundred years after the beginning of the 19th century. India is covered in depth up to the point of Victoria being made Empress, and the story also presents one of the most factual investigations of the Indian Mutiny that’s still very comprehensible.

However, what I liked unutterably more than the question of what was covered was the tone with which it was done. The most memorable phrase mentioned in this volume — to me — was “The British sometimes enjoy being spiteful to their heroes.” This, coming after countless descriptions of men and women who performed their uttermost to help both people they belonged to as well as treat everyone equally and honestly, was a crushing but ultimately truthful statement.

Other stories covered herein, such as that of Mungo Park, illustrate the complacency and backwardness of these would-be imperialists. And, overall, a lot of the injustices done by the British in their various locations come through very well here as the author has also quoted plenty of modern historians from those places, offering insights other histories (especially concerning India) have not done as well.

Review: The Private Lives of the Saints, Janina Ramirez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

It is my innate liking of Anglo-Saxon Britain which makes me rate this at 3.5/5 rather than any particular strength of the book. Indeed, I think that while it is an illuminating look into many people who otherwise do not get a deserved mention in more secular histories, the look into every individual here is quite shallow and generally based on a well-known story or feature. Rarely do we encounter even a conjecture of what their “private” life was like, and even where the author’s mention of “interesting results” is common, these results are communicated down to the reader in a very poor manner. Continue reading “Review: The Private Lives of the Saints, Janina Ramirez”

Review: This Sceptred Isle: Empire, Vol. 1, Christopher Lee

Rating: 4 out of 5

‘Empire’s first installment sounded a bit weaker to me than my recollections of the previous series’. This could be due to an error on my part, remembering wrong what I thought of the previous ones, especially as I am at a loss to say what was missing. A gripping narrative interwoven with historical citations and the story of the development of Britain (and the modern world) doesn’t leave much to be said, if one appreciates that the level of detail will not be perfect if the subject matter spans five hundred years.  Continue reading “Review: This Sceptred Isle: Empire, Vol. 1, Christopher Lee”

Review: This Sceptred Isle: The Dynasties, Christopher Lee

Rating: 5 out of 5

It was very easy for me to pick up another volume of ‘This Sceptred Isle’ as I absolutely adored the general historical collections I went through earlier this year. The one doubt I had was to do with this one’s name: “Dynasties”. I thought that though the Plantagenets and Windsors have their charms, it might not be that interesting. Firstly, I was mistaken — this deals with the common(er) dynasties (and the people who have actually been influential), and secondly, it was very interesting indeed to go through the stories of so many families. Continue reading “Review: This Sceptred Isle: The Dynasties, Christopher Lee”

Binham Priory

I never expected to be visiting Binham but it was on the way. Or, rather, what I saw from the window of my car was that a ruined structure was rising up from the horizon on my right so I decided to stop and go for a walk. It’s a mighty sight to behold, and my poor camera’s representation of it is such: Continue reading “Binham Priory”

Creake Abbey

Creake’s history in effect spans not more than about three centuries, but in it we may find our historic senses of justice and injustice renewed. The small abbey (most of the walls are still standing but the cloister is now a private garden and cannot be visited) was originally founded as sir Robert de Nerford’s private chapel in 1206 and converted into a hospital in 1217. Its status as an ecclesiastical edifice was confirmed slightly later and from 1231, the King, in the person of Henry III, was Creake’s patron.

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Dilham Hall

I will start by saying I did not even try and approach Dilham because it is a private property. The original fortfified structure was added to, with the resultant edifice being the hall that’s extant today. What I did do was take a look around the general area, and think about the people who started with the constructions here — the 15th century is what background info suggests for the fortifications and the manor/hall-building.

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Hunworth Castle

Visiting Hunworth was fun! One really wouldn’t expect to see a glacial escarpment just like the one that is located in the village in Norfolk — at least I didn’t, based on my past experiences. There are cliff-faces and other structures, but this place here heralded back to the when your neighbourly glacier was just about here. Of course, these notes have ignored the castle and its premise, but this ridge made a perfect place for a castle.

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