• A History of Britain: Volume 2

  • By: Simon Schama
  • Narrated by: Stephen Thorne
  • Length: 20 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (440 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $23.44

Buy for $23.44

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Timothy West reads the second volume of Simon Schama's compelling chronicle of the British Isles.

The British wars began on the morning of 23 July 1637, heralding 200 years of battles. Most were driven by religious or political conviction, as Republicans and Royalists, Catholics and Protestants, Tories and Whigs, and colonialists and natives vied for supremacy. Of the battles not fought on home territory, many took place across Europe, America, India, and also at sea.

Schama's examination of this turbulent period reveals how the British people eventually united in imperial enterprise, forming 'Britannia Incorporated'. The story of that change evokes the memory of such enduringly influential people as Oliver Cromwell, as well as lesser known but equally extraordinary individuals. A story of revolution and reaction, progress and catastrophe, this is a vivid account of two centuries which changed Britain.

©2012 Simon Schama (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about A History of Britain: Volume 2

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    314
  • 4 Stars
    101
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    4
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    288
  • 4 Stars
    74
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    4
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    267
  • 4 Stars
    81
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    3

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A solid second volume

This 2nd volume was interesting and entertaining just as the 1st volume was. After having read all 3 volumes in the series, this is the edition that I'll remember the least. Certainly the end of the first volume blends together with this volume. The subtitle for this volume is "The British Wars" but that seems inapt. It's not as though the 2nd volume is entirely or even mostly a war history. The most interesting part of this volume was the retelling of the Great Fire of London. As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, it helps to be well acquainted with British history and even European history when reading this book. For example, if you aren't familiar with things like the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs it's going to get confusing.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing!!!

This is the best book of the three, even though it only encompasses less than two hundred years.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Entertaining and Mind Broadening

This new history of Britain incorporates new knowledge and the new insights gleaned from the study of "ordinary" people and how the great events of history impact them as well as the principals involved. It was narrated very well, and was easy to follow. I am looking forward to listening to Volume 3.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Cavaliers and Roundheads and Redcoats

Cavaliers and Roundheads and Redcoats

The second volume of Schama's "History of Britan" is ostensibly about 150+ years of British warfare from the death of Elizabeth to the American Revolution. While that's mostly accurate, the bulk of the work is about the English Civil War(s) during the mid 17th century between Royalists and Parliamentarians.

Since these books coincided with a BBC series of the same name, it was obviously geared towards a British audience and there's a lot of assumed knowledge in the writing. Schama writing gets amusingly punchy/sardonic at times, but for a non-Brit, Schama does not do much to help the reader really understand the driving motivations between each side. And since this conflict takes up about 3/4 of the book, it's a shortcoming.

So while the section on the American Revolution is "better" (or rather, more familiar), there's still a sense that Schama doesn't really have a solid sense of how he wanted to present either the British Civil Wars or the American Revolution. They both definitely *happened* -- but things are a little loose as to the whys and hows. We are not presented with a through military or political history for either conflict. The end result is an interesting if simultaneously over- and underwhelming history.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

British Civil Wars

This volume focuses on a much shorter time period, just under 175 years, short even when you consider that there was less data to draw on for the earlier era. But, this was the era where the foundations of much of the modern United Kingdom were laid as England and Scotland were brought together, at least in some form and after much struggle, the basis of the global empire was established and Ireland was brought into a stronger alignment but with many of the seeds that would bedevil its future planted at this time.  

Schama indeed spends a great deal of time on the Union in the 17th century but his insight shows how, in his words, ‘‘The obsession with ‘union’ and ‘uniformity’ that consumed both James and Charles I turned out to guarantee hatred and schism”. He builds a strong case to show how relations between Scotland and England were a crucial catalyst for the internal wars during this time and even how the religious part of the struggle was not just a struggle between Protestant and Catholic, but also between the established church (the Anglican Church of England) and the very strict Calvinist Presbyterians in Scotland. 

This was a time when the printed press began to become important politically, and Schama details how it became such a tool for information and propaganda, for good and for ill.

For an American, it was interesting to read about the American revolution from the other side of the Atlantic and in this, I felt Schama’s perspective was balanced and objective. But, what was really special was how he dealt with the empire. He doesn’t dwell on the evils of colonialism in the abstract nor the glories of the world’s greatest empire on which the sun never set. Instead, he just paints a picture of the basic paradox of a people who prided themselves on their freedom but who can then take that freedom away from others for the wealth that they can provide, both in the earlier enslavement of Africans, but even longer term in the political enslavement of whole nations. He states, “It was the condition of the empire’s success, its original sin; a stain that no amount of righteous self-congratulation at its eventual abolition can altogether wash away,” and raises the question, “Was its military power to be used to strengthen or to weaken the native government they claimed to be ‘assisting’?”

It is fitting that this volume then ends with the loss of what could have become its most profitable colony, one that would have occupied almost the entire North American continent. If anything, I liked this one even better than his first.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Breaks it down

It’s starts off a little slow, but this book says it all by background, the death (suicide), and the actual digging for the information. Sadly the son is no longer with us. Drug addiction is something a lot of us can relate too. What he did, by sharing and learning, gave us this book. Definitely recommend. Great book. Well written and narrator was excellent!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful

A very good overall history. The author covers the events with an eye for facts and avoids the usual cliches. I will be looking for more of his work.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

From Elizabeth I to British India

Loved the narrative and narrator's performance. Book flowed well I enjoyed this volume. Excellent book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A very detailed history of Great British history

Like volume 1 volume 2 is so incredibly detailed I really enjoyed it.
A very smooth running adventure. Did not feel likde history.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

Schama is my favorite kind of historian: he takes his time, pays attention to context, has a clearly firm grasp of the facts, and (best of all in my opinion) is very good writer. I first came across him with his book Landscape and Memory (history/art history/geographical history), and his History of Britain is a splendid addition to his body of work.
Make no mistake. This book, along with the other two volumes, is LONG; the first and second volumes clock in at 40 hours. It will take a lot of listening to get through. But I’m of the opinion that it is absolutely worth it. He obviously puts way more time into the post-Elizabethan period, and the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming.
If you’re willing to put the time in however (I’d recommend while doing labor or housework, or something along those lines) and you want a proper history of Britain with an emphasis on England, listen to these books. Absolutely fascinating narrative history, with plenty of first hand sources.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Roderic
  • Roderic
  • 11-12-14

Excellent, engaging but lots to remember

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. It gives an excellent analysis of British history. It is, however, a lot to take in.

Any additional comments?

When I stopped listening for a few days or weeks it was hard to regain the context, but it was worth the effort.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Hannah
  • Hannah
  • 10-01-17

Lessons can be learned from rhis

Why do I get the feeling that most of the brilliantly trenchant observations in this book couldn’t ever have been made by any of the awful shower we have in Parliament now?

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Kyle Smith
  • Kyle Smith
  • 01-18-16

Excellent until 1700, slightly meanders after

Continues the basic structure of the first part, with more consistent depth given to the 17th century. Simon goes on in the 18th century to go rather off track at times, but not terribly or unbearably so. Still a very good book, like its predecessor.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-10-15

The civil wars, Britain and the wrong empire

The second of Schama's trilogy on Britain covers in most detail the English civil wars, Commonwealth, the protectorate and the Restoration., The British in America and India are given less space but new insights and understanding make this fascinating throughout.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Peter Evans
  • Peter Evans
  • 04-13-13

Good history lesson

Like all history it depends on who's side you are on. This does quite well at sticking to facts (I do not now how you can confirm this) and keeping all roud perspective.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for KE
  • KE
  • 12-08-15

You couldn't make it up

Brilliant summary of this fascinating period that gets relatively little coverage. If you thought that Britain was a nation of couch potatoes with no political enthusiasm never mind revolutionary tendencies ... Think again!

Excellent balance between royal and commoner focus. Exciting could not turn off. Narrator quite good. Crocuses on a much shorter time span than part 1 and all the better for it. History truly brought to life.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Andy T
  • Andy T
  • 01-04-21

Some fascinating updates to conventional British history

Spanning what looked like a relatively narrow swathe of history (the previous volume dealt with 4,500 years...) this takes the reader from the antiquity of siege engines and the civil war to the end of the British America and the plunder of India. I, for one, had basked in the glorious history of brave Britons, passing on civilization to the less fortunate around the world; Simon Schama did a good job of educating me in what it meant to be a slave of Britons in the Caribbean; or to have your wealth carried off from India to London. And yet, this felt like an even-handed, fair telling of our history, warts and all. Great job to the author - whose wide learning impressed me hugely - and to the reader.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for John Forrester
  • John Forrester
  • 04-29-15

Best Audiobook Ever

What did you like most about A History of Britain: Volume 2?

In depth knowledge of one of the most important periods of this great country.and how we became united under one United Kingdom!

Who was your favorite character and why?

King William prince of Orange. His role in the UK and history is still celebrated today even after 300 years, incredible.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The uniting of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England together. Set on course to have the biggest empire in the world, ever!

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

British and Proud

Any additional comments?

Great work by Simon Schama looking forward to volume 3

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for mrs e a harding
  • mrs e a harding
  • 07-17-22

fascinating

A detailed, interesting well read, well written, filled with information overview of history, still valid in today's world.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Pierre Bovington
  • Pierre Bovington
  • 06-21-22

Stunning

Beautifully written and read. A must for history fans. Off t read the last in this great series.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Derek Ironside-Hughes
  • Derek Ironside-Hughes
  • 06-21-22

OUTSTANDING

Simon Schama is the greatest History writer in the world today.
This book is simply outstanding.
Steven Thorne perfectly narrates this amazing story of the British Emprire, can't wait for volume 3.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for andrew
  • andrew
  • 03-30-22

Good pace and good insights

I enjoyed the narration which was right for the material.

I learned plenty about the history of this period from the book and really enjoyed it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for melanie
  • melanie
  • 03-17-22

Captivating

I love this narrator really adds to the text. Great story teller, really captivating, but honest and clear sighted with Simon Schama's usual fascination with words.