• Rebellion

  • The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution
  • By: Peter Ackroyd
  • Narrated by: Clive Chafer
  • Length: 19 hrs
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (358 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Peter Ackroyd has been praised as one of the greatest living chroniclers of Britain and its people. In Rebellion, he continues his dazzling account of the history of England, beginning the progress south of the Scottish king James VI, who on the death of Elizabeth I became the first Stuart king of England, and ending with the deposition and flight into exile of his grandson James II.

The Stuart monarchy brought together the two nations of England and Scotland into one realm, albeit a realm still marked by political divisions that echo to this day. More importantly perhaps, the Stuart era was marked by the cruel depredations of civil war and the killing of a king. Shrewd and opinionated, James I was eloquent on matters as diverse as theology, witchcraft, and the abuses of tobacco, but his attitude to the English parliament sowed the seeds of the division that would split the country during the reign of his hapless heir, Charles I. Ackroyd offers a brilliant, warts-and-all portrayal of Charles's nemesis, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament's great military leader and England's only dictator, who began his career as apolitical liberator but ended it as much of a despot as "that man of blood," the king he executed.

England's turbulent seventeenth century is vividly laid out before us, but so too is the cultural and social life of the period, notable for its extraordinarily rich literature, including Shakespeare's late masterpieces, Jacobean tragedy, the poetry of John Donne and Milton, and Thomas Hobbes's great philosophical treatise, Leviathan. Rebellion also gives us a very real sense of the lives of ordinary English men and women, lived out against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.

©2014 Peter Ackroyd (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good but not great

The period covered in this book is a very interesting one, but unfortunately the content is let down a bit by both the author and the narrator, especially the latter. Clive Chafer reads like he is doing the graveyard shift news update at a local college news station. There is no emotion, and his monotone delivery can be very trying.

That being said, I stuck with the book, and am glad I did. As always with Ackroyd, however, his anecdotes are very scattershot, and he leaves vast gaps in the narrative that better historians like Alison Weir would never leave empty.

For example, when discussing the reign of James I, he offhandedly mentions that James was angry when he discovered that his principal secretary, Robert Cecil, had been in the employ of Spain. Robert Cecil was a truly huge figure in both Elizabethan and early Jacobean England, and this comment was begging for further elaboration. Alas, he simply skips past it.

This happens all too often in the book, and the habit will be well-recognized by those who have read his other works. In the end, Rebellion strikes one as more of a primer on the period than a truly in-depth and insightful study. I don't know why, but this seems to be the case with all his books.

I'd still recommend it, but don't expect to be blown away.

12 people found this helpful

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Essential Background Plus A Good Story

For anyone who is not a specialist in American politics, yet still wants to know the political history that informed the Founding Fatherrs, this is a "must read". It's informative, yet engaging enough for the average reader.

And it gives a much clearer understanding of the 17th century political turmoil roiling in England, Scotland and Ireland at a time when English settlement in America was at an embryonic stage: the Stuart dynasty; Anglicanism vs. Presbyterianism vs. Catholicism; the question of the divine right of kings; regicide; Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth Interregnum; the Restoriation; and the Glorious Revolution that brought William and Mary to the throne.

Fascinating stuff. Here in Northern Virginia, for example, we're constantly tripping over English names from this period--Fairfax, Clarendon, Arlington, Stafford, etc. And many of the concepts raised in initiatives like the Great Remonstration against Charles I are recognizible in our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution. As an American who has had very little exposure to this history, I found it invaluable.

9 people found this helpful

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An exciting and revealing book

An exciting story that reveals the birth pangs of the rights of the people of England, and by extension, of the United States

3 people found this helpful

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Great read

Unlike Wedgewood's history of the Thirty Years War, Peter Ackroyd's Rebellion flows effortlessly and brightly from one event to the next. We are carried along through wars, revolutions, courts and Parliaments by vivid imagery, funny anecdotes. He makes the history come alive.

3 people found this helpful

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Not much that's new

Would you try another book from Peter Ackroyd and/or Clive Chafer?

yes

Would you recommend Rebellion to your friends? Why or why not?

no

Which character – as performed by Clive Chafer – was your favorite?

I'd listen to Clive Chafer read the phone book.

Could you see Rebellion being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

no

Any additional comments?

This is a story that's been told before. It's a great turning point in the history of the West and as such deserves to be told again and again, and, as Mr Ackroyd tells it, in some detail. Still I'd like to know more of what was happening in the coffee houses, in the streets, in the law courts, at sea, etc. I'd like to know more about Cromwell, I'd love to know about his welcoming the Jews back into England, a detail that Mr Ackroyd skipped or overlooked.I felt that Milton was given short shrift. As a player in the political and religious and cultural events of that momentous time, the whole story, or much more of it, might have been told from his point of view. I'd like to know more about the Cromwellian Commonwealth. The vile Stuarts and their appalling court scene is pretty much what happened for a thousand years of European dynastic government. Not much new there, but the great revolution that was the Commonwealth, that's something to write about and to read about. Ah well.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I love history as it sheds light on the future.

From "Good King James" (Who wasn't as good as he's remembered) to the removal of James II in the same Glorious Revolution (aka Bloodless Revolution) this is a worthwhile book.

1 person found this helpful

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An excellent book

This book on English History my Peter Ackroyd is excellent. I am currently trying to read through most of his volumes on English History. It is a favorite topic of mine. I highly recommend it to others.

1 person found this helpful

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So boring I couldn't even finish it

I generally always finish a book even if I don't care for it. it's just something weird about my personality, I suppose. But I guess that I just hadn't found a book that I disliked as much as I did this one. Some of it might have been due to the narration, which I found to be distracting. The reader seemed to put inflection on every single line and I found myself listening for it instead of processing the story sometimes. I actually was really interested in the subject matter and have read at least 6 or 7 books about European royalty which I enjoyed immensely, but I just couldn't get into this one and had to shelve it with 15 hours still to go.

1 person found this helpful

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Enjoyable history!

This book, and its two preceding volumes, have brought English history to life for me. I eagerly await volume four.

1 person found this helpful

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Soporific reader

This is a readily accessible account of a complicated historical period in England, covering roughly the entire 1600s.

Unfortunately, the reader made it hard to keep paying attention. He read as though he were reading the news, with every sentence sounding the same. Good Scottish accent for King James, though.

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