I have gaps in my historical knowledge. It’s likely that most of us educated in England would admit that. At school I studied certain periods of history (some more than once). I went on to study History at college but the eras largely overlapped with what I had done at school, leaving gaps of time about which I knew very little. And I’ll admit that my knowledge of Scottish, Welsh and Irish history is even sparser. This 500 page book is written for a young audience (although not that young, given the demands it makes on the reader, so probably early/mid-teens). It seemed to offer an ideal overview of British and Irish history. The general editor is Professor Kenneth O Morgan and it has been put together by five authors with distinguished historical backgrounds. It spans from the time when the land mass which became Britain and Ireland was still joined to looking ahead to what the new Millennium might bring. The text is generously broken up with pictures, photos, maps and diagrams.
On reading it I can confirm that it provided me with a good overview and showed me how our history fits together. Obviously, given its scope and audience it’s all rather fleeting. I can’t claim to be that more knowledgeable about the periods I knew less about (Medieval and The Georgians, for example), but what is impressive is the range of subjects covered both within the text and through the illustrations. Photos, portraits, diagrams and maps are used very effectively and they do enrich the text and can often give little snippets of information not included elsewhere. At the back there is a list of the English Royal Line Of Succession and Scottish Kings & Queens (I was largely unfamiliar with this particular list) and UK Prime Ministers up to, because of the publication of the book, John Major. Obviously, this type of book dates easily but twenty-one years on it does not seem jarring. Here, the vast scope and range of the book is to its benefit.
The index looks pretty comprehensive and this would most likely provide most readers’ introduction to the text. I’ve read it from cover to cover, but probably most would dip in and out. This is going to last me a little while, until once again I start chiding myself about how little I know about the country in which I live and then I’ll no doubt seek out something similar.
The Young Oxford History Of Britain and Ireland was published by the Oxford University Press in 1996.