hy England explores perhaps the richest, documented history of any nation in the world. The work focuses on events and documents, which moulded the English character and shaped the nation between the 6th and 16th centuries; it describes the emergence of a single, unified 'England' from a collection of disparate, Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
The book opens with an explosive description of the 'Black Death', which devastated England in 1348-9. Readers are advised that the pestilence killed approximately half of Europe's population. The disease is described as the worst catastrophe known to humankind and its effects are compared to nuclear explosions in 1945 and the modern-day tragedy of HIV/AIDS. The account finishes with an explanation of the consequences for ordinary people who had to lift England out of the terrible abyss.
The second chapter concentrates on the remarkable experiences of a small, rural community at Eyam in Derbyshire. In the 17th century, the village suffered an attack of the bubonic plague but it survived after the residents took a courageous decision to place themselves in quarantine. Eyam is described as a living monument to the effects of the 'Black Death'.
Two chapters are devoted to succinct descriptions of the 'Reformation' and the 'Dissolution of the Monasteries'. Together they describe the most significant social changes ever imposed on the English; they offer reasons for the country's dramatic change of direction in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The second half of Why England ? introduces historic documents and comments on the evolution of the English and their language. Five chapters are given over to the following:
The book finishes with a 'Calendar of English Dates'. The calendar contains nearly 400 entries and most readers will be able to match personal anniversaries with significant events from England's past, thus placing themselves alongside the towering figures and events of their English heritage.