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Books on Understanding English History

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To understand the history of England, it is first necessary to know how the kingdom of the English came into beginning with the unification of England in 927 CE by the House of Wessex, ruled England from 927 CE to 1016 CE and then was in power again under Edward the Confessor from 1041 CE to 1066.

The founders of the kingdom of the English were Alfred the Great, king of the West Saxons and Anglo-Saxons from 871 CE until he died in 899 CE and was succeeded by his son Edward the Elder, who was king from 899 CE until 924 CE.

Before these two Kings, England was dominated by the four kingdoms of Wessex, East Anglia, Murcia and Northumbria.

The Great Heathen army that invaded England in 860s CE and was active in the 870s destroyed the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of East Anglia, Northumbria and permanently weakened the kingdom of Murcia, making them a client state of the kingdom of Wessex which dominated southern England and in control over Cornwall during King Alfred’s rule previously that territory was called South Wales.

male statue near green palm trees at daytime. An imagine of an English King
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Founder of the kingdom of England

The final founder of the kingdom of England was the first King of the English called. Who ruled as king of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 CE to 927 CE and then as king of the English in 927 CE until his death in 939 CE at the age of 45. During the rise of the King of Wessex under the rule of Alfred the Great, Edward the Elder and Athelstan spent money on building up defences and fortified towns to make Viking invasions not worth the trouble and hardship of attacking the kingdoms.

This was done due to the increased centralised authority and development of the lands controlled by the King of the Anglo-Saxons than the King of the English after 927 CE. This period of economic and political unity greater the most centralised mediaeval kingdom in the Western world.

The tradition of the viewpoint of English exceptionalism will not be expanded upon in this article.

What the unification of England created has been called by some historians like David Bates, the author of William the Conqueror part of the Yale history books part of the Kings and Queens of England book series.

When discussing the first English empire, this is not a true entry term merely that after the unification of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in 927 CE, new paradigms were created in the British Isles and the North Sea, where England became the predominant power.

England’s predominance established by Edward the Elder and by his son Athelstan the first King of the English made it so that at least in the form of ceremony and in regards to practicality when operating systems of power, the Princess of Wales and the kings of Scotland and Strathclyde old homage to the house of Wessex and successive kings of England.

This began a long history of border wars and conflicts in the Welsh and Scottish matches and during the time of King Athelstan and the Battle of Brunanburh, which took place in 934 CE, established the English kingdom as the predominant kingdom in the British Isles after Inc a full standings Pyrrhic victory over the King of Dublin, King of Scots and Owain, King of Strathclyde.

pile of books on English History
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All-rounder Books give that give a Great Understanding of English History.

The Plantagenets, written by Dan Jones, is a book that covers the rule of King Henry II of England from 1154 CE until the rain of the last mainline line Plantagenet King of England King Richard the second, who ruled from 1377 CE until his murder in 1400 CE and was overthrown by the first Lancastrian king Henry IV of England.

This book is a fantastic read for people who have no idea who Plantagenets were and would like to have an understanding of how the English kingdom changed during the time of Plantagenet rule and its cadet houses from 1154 until 1485 with the death of the last Plantagenet king Richard the third at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

The next great book is called the Capetian France 987 CE to 1328 CE By Elizabeth M Hallam, Charles West; this is a fantastic book because it focuses on the Plantagenet’s French rivals and shows how this rivalry contributed to the Hundred Years War from 1337 until 1453.

This book also includes the economic and political development in the kingdom of France, as well as dukedoms like Normandy and the Aquitaine and other counties and dukedom in France, including the growth and expansion of Paris under King Philip II Augustus.

Peter Zilhen’s books with his, Disunited United Nations and the End of the World is Just the Beginning, are not strictly history books. Still, they are great books if you wish to understand the nature of geopolitics and international politics’ effects on national development and foreign policy.

These books help provide an understanding from a different discipline for why kingdoms like England and France became so dominant and why the kingdom of England tried to conquer Scotland, and why the French intervention in the Anglo-French war of 1294 to 1298 was a massive contributor to the Hundred Years War and the rivalry between the kingdoms of England and France from 1066 until the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

close up portrait of lion which represents English kings
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The Yale Monarch’s series

The Yale history series on English kings and queens is a great historical biography series that will give the reader a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the reigning monarchs and how they run the kingdom.

The series also gives information on the economic development of the kingdoms, dukedom and principalities they ruled. Still, the series itself primarily focuses on the actions of the ruling King or Queen.

If you want more detailed information about individual princes or families, it is best to look for different resources. For example, the book William the Conqueror by David Bates does take into factoring William the Conqueror’s father, Robert I, Duke of Normandy and his mother.

However, there is not a deep focus on the individuals but merely on how William interacted with his wife Matilda, the daughter of Count Baldwin iV of Flanders and the support William received from King Henry I of France in the 1040s. What you will get from these biographies is a strong understanding of how these kings and queens were and how their life will shape, from their childhood to their death and legacies.

Æthelstan924 – 939Sarah Foot2011Published under the title Æthelstan: The First King of England.
Æthelred the Unready978-1013Levi Roach2016
Cnut The Great1016-35Timothy Bolton2017
Edward the Confessor1042–1066Frank Barlow1970Re-published in 1997, with new material, an updated bibliography and a fresh introduction.
Edward the Confessor1042–1066Tom Licence2020Published under the title Edward the Confessor: Last of the Royal Blood.
William I1066–1087David C. Douglas1964Published under the title William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England.
William I1066–1087David Bates2016Published under the title William the Conqueror.
William II1087–1100Frank Barlow1983Published under the title William Rufus.
Henry I1100–1135C. Warren Hollister2001Incomplete at the time of the author’s death in 1997. Edited and completed by Amanda Clark Frost.
King Stephen1135–1154Edmund King2011
Henry II1154–1189W. L. Warren19731973 and 1991 editions published by Methuen, Yale edition 2000, with a foreword by Judith A. Green.
Richard I1189–1199John Gillingham1999
King John1199–1216W. L. Warren1982
Henry III1216–1272David Carpenter2021Vol 1 published 2021
Edward I1272–1307Michael Prestwich1997
Edward II1307–1327J. R. S. Phillips2010
Edward III1327–1377W. M. Ormrod2011
Richard II1377–1399Nigel Saul1997
Henry IV1399–1413Chris Given-Wilson2016
Henry V1413–1422Christopher Allmand1992
Henry VI1422–1461
Bertram Wolffe1981Re-published in 2001, with a new foreword by John L. Watts.
Edward IV1461–1470
Charles Ross1974Re-published in 1997, with a substantial new foreword by Ralph A. Griffiths.
Edward V1483–1483
Richard III1483–1485Charles Ross1981Re-published in 2011, with a new foreword by Ralph A. Griffiths.
Henry VII1485–1509S. B. Chrimes1972Re-published in 1999, with a new introduction and bibliographical updating by George Bernard.
Henry VIII1509–1547J. J. Scarisbrick1968Re-published in 1997, with an updated foreword by author J.J. Scarisbrick.
Edward VI1547–1553Jennifer Loach1999Incomplete at the time of the author’s death in 1995. Edited and completed by George Bernard and Penry Williams.
Mary I1553–1558John Edwards2011Published under the title Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen.
Elizabeth I1558–1603Simon Adams2021
James I1603–1625
Charles I1625–1649
Charles II1660–1685
James II1685–1688John Miller1978
Mary II1689–1694
William III1689–1702
Queen Anne1702–1714Edward Gregg1980Re-published in 2001, with a new foreword by the author.
George I1714–1727Ragnhild Hatton2001Originally published in 1978.[1] Yale edition contains a new foreword by Jeremy Black.
George II1727–1760Andrew C. Thompson2011Published under the title George II: King and Elector.
George III1760–1820Jeremy Black2006Published under the title George III: America’s Last King.
George IV1820–1830E. A. Smith1999
William IV1830–1837
Queen Victoria1837–1901
Edward VII1901–1910
George V1910–1936
Edward VIII1936–1936
George VI1936–1952
Elizabeth II1952–2022

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