Island Stories: An Unconventional History of Britain

Basic: Perseus. Mar. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781541646926. $30. HIST
Reynolds (international history, Christ’s Coll., Cambridge Univ.) has written an important work containing a series of histories and—and sometimes myths—about the decline of Great Britain’s global power over the last several hundred years. He notes that, for both former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and current Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council Jacob Rees-Mogg, the failed effort to regain the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956 was a “crucial moment in Britain’s decline.” Decline is the major theme throughout this scholarly, yet still highly readable, text. Reynolds effectively explains Britain’s ambivalent relationship with Europe, the role that imperial power played in British history, and how today’s Brexit fits into to Britain’s past history. Also discussed is the relationship among the counties in the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. There are many stories of British history here, and Reynolds weaves them all together extremely well.
VERDICT With this well-documented and engaging, narrative, readers will gain a better understanding of the nuanced histories of this island nation.

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