This Sceptred Isle read by Anna Massie and Paul Eddington Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire read Philip Madoc and Neville Jason
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Now that heroes are back in force, history is high fashion. But Anna Massie, the anchorwoman on Radio 4's This Sceptred Isle (BBC, 3hrs, pounds 9.99), sounds too like Joyce Grenfell in a primary school; she is not helped by a script of unutterable banality. The extracts from Winston Churchill's History of the English-Speaking People are, predictably, better phrased, although the late Paul Eddington's reading of them is, sadly, lacklustre.

But Philip Madoc's splendid voice, full of importance, makes Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Naxos, 8hrs, pounds 12.49) quite mesmerising: like driving through history in a Rolls-Royce. It is also a timely reminder of the brilliance of its legendary author. Gibbon can analyse character, tell a love story, and describe practicalities with the same matchless lucidity.

Christina Hardyment