I think Pen and Sword have sold themselves short on this one. The book arrived, the missus took one look at the cover and decided that it wasn’t a book she’d ever read. And to be honest, the cover just doesn’t do this little book justice. To me, it looked like a Tom Sharpe comedy when in truth it’s nothing of the sort.
It’s a tour through English history as seen through the eyes of the poor. Unusually, we see things not from the ‘official’ reported line, but from the horrible, stark, reality that the Nation’s poor saw and faced on a daily basis. Chapter by chapter, the author skilfully has the poor speaking for themselves, telling us what they see, hear and feel: he then rounds each chapter off with a brief explanation of the various laws and events at that time.
I found the early chapters a little ‘sketchy’ but due to the format I think that’s understandable. The author would have had very little by way of first hand accounts to work from. However, as the book progressed the details became far more sharply focused, likely because the author had been able to access first hand accounts of events, and the author’s research really does show.
What I found very interesting from a social history point of view is that as a society we haven’t moved on all that much, and much of what bedeviled us from Domesday forward, is still with us in one form or another today. – History truly repeats itself!
I found this a very readable and incredibly interesting book, one that I heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in social history. 4 anchors from me, but please Pen and Sword, rethink that cover.