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Parliament: The Biography (Volume I - Ancestral Voices)

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The history of Parliament is the history of the United Kingdom itself. It has a cast of thousands. Some were ambitious, visionary and altruistic. Others were hot-headed, violent and self-serving. Few were unambiguously noble. Yet their rowdy confrontations, their campaigning zeal and their unstable alliances framed our nation. This first of two volumes takes us on a 500-yea The history of Parliament is the history of the United Kingdom itself. It has a cast of thousands. Some were ambitious, visionary and altruistic. Others were hot-headed, violent and self-serving. Few were unambiguously noble. Yet their rowdy confrontations, their campaigning zeal and their unstable alliances framed our nation. This first of two volumes takes us on a 500-year journey from Parliament's earliest days in the thirteenth century through the turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses and the upheavals of the Civil Wars, and up to 1801, when Parliament – and the United Kingdom, embracing Scotland and Ireland – emerged in a modern form. Chris Bryant tells this epic tale through the lives of the myriad MPs, lords and bishops who passed through Parliament. It is the vivid, colourful biography of a cast of characters whose passions and obsessions, strengths and weaknesses laid the foundations of modern democracy.


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The history of Parliament is the history of the United Kingdom itself. It has a cast of thousands. Some were ambitious, visionary and altruistic. Others were hot-headed, violent and self-serving. Few were unambiguously noble. Yet their rowdy confrontations, their campaigning zeal and their unstable alliances framed our nation. This first of two volumes takes us on a 500-yea The history of Parliament is the history of the United Kingdom itself. It has a cast of thousands. Some were ambitious, visionary and altruistic. Others were hot-headed, violent and self-serving. Few were unambiguously noble. Yet their rowdy confrontations, their campaigning zeal and their unstable alliances framed our nation. This first of two volumes takes us on a 500-year journey from Parliament's earliest days in the thirteenth century through the turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses and the upheavals of the Civil Wars, and up to 1801, when Parliament – and the United Kingdom, embracing Scotland and Ireland – emerged in a modern form. Chris Bryant tells this epic tale through the lives of the myriad MPs, lords and bishops who passed through Parliament. It is the vivid, colourful biography of a cast of characters whose passions and obsessions, strengths and weaknesses laid the foundations of modern democracy.

30 review for Parliament: The Biography (Volume I - Ancestral Voices)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Colin Mitchell

    An interesting subject. I felt that it got a bit bogged down with individuals and missed the subject. So often the nobles changed their titles or lost their heads. The book picks up once the Stuart kings are consigned to history and by the 18 century, parliament begins to have the structure that we recognise today but still a few too many anecdotes, that seem like padding.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Wright

    Densely packed with detail and impeccably well-researched, the book nonetheless founders on the border between a 3 and 4 star rating because the overwhelming lists of names make large sections of it, particularly in the latter half, at times both tedious to wade through and difficult to parse. In the end, I went with 4 because I did get a lot out of reading it, but be warned

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Stubbs

    Seeing British history from a parliamentary perspective is a good exercise. Well researched.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Brown

    This book is a tad dense, particularly in the early chapters - where I was both less aware and therefore less interested - in the well written narrative. However, as the nascent parliament develops, the book becomes more absorbing as there is more for Bryant to get his teeth into, in terms of significant episodes and more colourful characters. Also the decision to move to more thematic chapters to intersperse the narrative - dealing with Scotland and Ireland separately as well as a chapter on du This book is a tad dense, particularly in the early chapters - where I was both less aware and therefore less interested - in the well written narrative. However, as the nascent parliament develops, the book becomes more absorbing as there is more for Bryant to get his teeth into, in terms of significant episodes and more colourful characters. Also the decision to move to more thematic chapters to intersperse the narrative - dealing with Scotland and Ireland separately as well as a chapter on duelling - makes for an easier and therefore more productive read. I expect the second volume to be more consistent as he brings the story up to date. And, it's not as if he is going to care about a mixed review - as they beget the Corbyn era, he will have bigger things to concern himself with!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Ugh. This was a real slog to read. Too many lists of names of people who crop up once or twice, but have relatively little significance in the grand scheme of things. Few facts are put into historical context - yes, a law made in the 16th Century might have been a big deal at the time, but we're left none the wiser as to whether it stood the test of time. Also, the book deviates from Parliament far too often, exploring nooks and crannies in the monarchy and the country at large which tell us lit Ugh. This was a real slog to read. Too many lists of names of people who crop up once or twice, but have relatively little significance in the grand scheme of things. Few facts are put into historical context - yes, a law made in the 16th Century might have been a big deal at the time, but we're left none the wiser as to whether it stood the test of time. Also, the book deviates from Parliament far too often, exploring nooks and crannies in the monarchy and the country at large which tell us little about the subject at hand.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Underhill

    A masterful attempt to pull together what is, by necessity, a dense and wide ranging subject. It's not an easy read, but in honesty one should not expect it to be. I would however echo the points made by others that there are moments where we descend in to long lists of names and/ or titles which require some careful consideration before one is able to fully make sense of what is being suggested. A masterful attempt to pull together what is, by necessity, a dense and wide ranging subject. It's not an easy read, but in honesty one should not expect it to be. I would however echo the points made by others that there are moments where we descend in to long lists of names and/ or titles which require some careful consideration before one is able to fully make sense of what is being suggested.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pinko Palest

    the title is misleading. This is not any kind of a biography of parliament, but rather a series of anecdotes about various personalities in the past. Very thin on detail. About how parliament worked at the time, or how it was elected, or even what it was meant to do. Also, surprisingly conservative for a Labour member of parliament: doesn't even mention the Levellers, with Christopher Hill, AL Morton and N. H. Brailsford not even making it to the bibliography the title is misleading. This is not any kind of a biography of parliament, but rather a series of anecdotes about various personalities in the past. Very thin on detail. About how parliament worked at the time, or how it was elected, or even what it was meant to do. Also, surprisingly conservative for a Labour member of parliament: doesn't even mention the Levellers, with Christopher Hill, AL Morton and N. H. Brailsford not even making it to the bibliography

  8. 4 out of 5

    Angela E Gilbert

  9. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Eyre

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rob Brathwaite

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim Lenton

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Williams

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sébastien Belliveau

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gus

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  18. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    See my review for Volume 2.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tim Bailey

  20. 5 out of 5

    Martin A Hodder

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Westbrook

  22. 4 out of 5

    Martyn Jones

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily Houlston-Jones

  24. 5 out of 5

    david mathieson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michal

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  27. 5 out of 5

    sean oconnell

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leah Millington

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve Donoughue

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian McArthur

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