Colin Brown investigates 10 defining events in British history – such as the signing of Magna Carta, the Battle of Agincourt, Queen Elizabeth I’s pre-Armada speech to the troops at Tilbury, and the Falklands war – and explores the truth behind the myth. Magna Carta was not a charter for individual liberty, but a concession wrung from King John to protect the privileges of the barons. Our view of it owes much to the way it was used in the 17th century by Edward Coke to challenge Charles I’s claim to rule by Divine Right, and the fact that it was an inspiration for the American Declaration of Independence.
This is as much a travel book as history. Brown goes to significant sites: at Dover, he re-enacts Churchill looking over the English Channel in 1940; he stands in the Women’s Library in London’s east end and ponders the meaning of Emily Davison’s return ticket to Epsom. It’s in evoking such a strong sense of place that the book succeeds in conveying a sense of history.