This review isn’t the most generous that I’ve ever written but I mean no malice with it. The book does have merits, these just need bringing out.
The author has written many books and his biography reveals that he was a teacher in a previous life. Further research into him reveals he was in fact a history teacher and he is now 80 years of age. I think praise is due to still be writing at this age.
A quick ‘Google’ on the internet produces plenty of praise and plaudits about the author’s prolific writings. Sorry, but I’m going to rain on his parade somewhat!
My gripes are not so much about the content of the book, but of the writing style. Right from the first page, I was swept back in time to my own dreadful history ‘O’ level lessons and reminded of the very same arguments that I had with my own history teachers, ‘How can you be dogmatic about things when you weren’t there and so many of the facts and other details have been lost in the mists of time?’ - I never did get a satisfactory answer, which is why I’m often sceptical about history books.
Using expressions such as ’it is clearly obvious’ is wrong: expressions such as ‘it looks like’ or ‘popular opinion now has it’ are far more appropriate. What might now appear obvious, might (or might not) be relevant to why what happened all those years ago happened. The point is, we simply just don’t know with any absolute certainty, we just think we know. The author is guilty of looking for patterns and explanations that might fit past events, but equally, they might not: this is a particularly frustrating human trait, but one that cannot easily be forgiven in a history book. It is difficult enough to accurately piece events together where we have recorded evidence, you only need to look back as far as World War Two for that. But come on, stating what you think was an obvious motive for actions back in AD 100 is rather a long shot, to put it mildly.
The other thing that has frustrated me about this book is that although the author has kindly provided a quite extensive bibliography, he hasn’t referenced things. This makes checking on any facts and following things up incredibly difficult. I would suggest that as a Ph.D. holder the author ought to know better if he intends the work to be taken seriously.
In praise of the author, I did like his rounding up of each chapter under the sub-title ‘conclusions’, though I personally felt ‘in summary’ would have been a better sub-title.
As regards the content, I’m not sufficiently qualified to comment upon the accuracy or otherwise, but it does give one potential explanation to how many events in our history came together to bring the United Kingdom into being and why we’re now in danger of disintegrating. I would be far happier if the book was re-titled ‘John Grainger’s explanation of The Unification and Disintegration of Britain since AD 43’, as that would address most of my gripes.
I’m going to run to 21/2 anchors and hope that the author or publisher read this review and take action for future editions as the book has merit. Also, a few more useful maps wouldn’t go amiss.