Not interested in English history?

Breaking News

Just a dull list of kings and dates? No relevance to problems of today? Think again.

Try some unfamiliar work by two of the best novelists of the 1800s: Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. They tell the tale -- facts not fiction -- of complex plots by Mary Queen of Scots, and of the little dog who hid beneath her skirts as she waited for the executioner's ax. Queen Elizabeth I of England convened the court that condemned Mary, who had long been her prisoner, for trying to take Elizabeth's throne.
Jane Austen wrote the "History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st," covering 250 years in 36 manuscript pages, as a form of family entertainment. She was just 16. It satirizes both the partisan history taught to girls of her time, and novels from which it was supposed to distract them.

Austen's whole text, discovered a century after her death, is reprinted in this thin volume.
Dickens was already a famous novelist when he wrote "A Child's History of England" in 38 detailed chapters. Ostensibly for his own children, it was published in his magazine and used as a text by some British schools into the 20th century. This book prints only an excerpt, but it's more than eight times as long as Austen's manuscript.

Both texts cover much of the same period in simple, witty style.

Austen starts with the statement that her work is "by a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian."

comments powered by Disqus