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Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

The first book in Peter Ackroyd’s history of England series, which has since been followed up with two more installments, Tudors and the forthcoming Rebellion.

In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England’s prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the building of Stonehenge to the founding of the two great glories of medieval England: common law and the cathedrals. He shows us glimpses of the country’s most distant past—and Neolithic stirrup found in a grave, a Roman fort, a Saxon tomb, a medieval manor house—and describes in rich prose the successive waves of invaders who made England English, despite being themselves Roman, Viking, Saxon, or Norman French.

With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place and his acute eye for the telling detail, Ackroyd recounts the story of warring kings, of civil strife, and foreign wars. But he also gives us a vivid sense of how England’s early people lived: the homes they built, the clothes the wore, the food they ate, even the jokes they told. All are brought vividly to life through the narrative mastery of one of Britain’s finest writers.


The first book in Peter Ackroyd’s history of England series, which has since been followed up with two more installments, Tudors and the forthcoming Rebellion.

In Foundation, the chronicler of London and of its river, the Thames, takes us from the primeval forests of England’s prehistory to the death, in 1509, of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. He guides us from the building of Stonehenge to the founding of the two great glories of medieval England: common law and the cathedrals. He shows us glimpses of the country’s most distant past—and Neolithic stirrup found in a grave, a Roman fort, a Saxon tomb, a medieval manor house—and describes in rich prose the successive waves of invaders who made England English, despite being themselves Roman, Viking, Saxon, or Norman French.

With his extraordinary skill for evoking time and place and his acute eye for the telling detail, Ackroyd recounts the story of warring kings, of civil strife, and foreign wars. But he also gives us a vivid sense of how England’s early people lived: the homes they built, the clothes the wore, the food they ate, even the jokes they told. All are brought vividly to life through the narrative mastery of one of Britain’s finest writers.

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Prelude to Foundation (Foundation, Book 1)

Prelude to Foundation (Foundation, Book 1)

It is the year 12,020 G.E. and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor. Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity. Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall – those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future.

Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory, his remarkable theory of prediction. Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity. For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire… the man who holds the key to the future – an apocalyptic power to be know forever after as the Foundation.

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6 comments

  1. 81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Very interesting reading, June 30, 2013
    By 
    Don

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors (Kindle Edition)
    I am puzzled by the animosity displayed in some of the more condemnatory reviews of this book. Lack of footnotes, maps, genealogical charts, kings’ lists? They couldn’t detect these things before they read the book? The author evidently didn’t intend this to be a weighty, scholarly tome, rather a readable, quite enjoyable survey of several thousand years of English history. If this was his intent, he was quite successful. He kept the narrative going quite smoothly without leaving any significant gaps. Actually, his technique of interspersing chapters on the doings of kings and noblemen with chapters on the lives of ordinary folk, kept the story from becoming ponderous, as is the work of so many other writers.

    Perhaps he does sometimes draw firm conclusions in places where scholars argue otherwise, or where the jury is still out. Frankly, I don’t care. I’m not looking for rock-solid detail, backed by endless footnotes and cross-references. If I were, I’d turn elsewhere. Instead, I was interested in finding a coherent narrative that would help knit together the bits and pieces of English history of which I had already read. “Foundation” is that narrative.

    I’m looking forward to his work on the Tudors.

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  2. 34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Fairly Enjoyable, May 4, 2013
    By 
    DRF

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    I thought this was a fairly enjoyable survey of the history of England from prehistoric times through the reign of Henry VII. Ackroyd’s alternation of chapters about the political and military history with chapters about culture, society, etc. is a kind of awkward structure, but at least he does manage to convey something of the history that’s not merely the political.

    Ackroyd’s style is a bit eccentric, and it sometimes results in odd sentences and odd punctuation, but it’s not dry.

    I have one big complaint about the Kindle edition, which is what I read. When I got to the end, I saw that there was a list of illustrations/photos, but only a list–no illustrations or photos. There’s absolutely no reason why the publisher couldn’t include these in the ebook version (unless they are actually there and I just can’t find them–which is just as bad). That’s just inexcusable.

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  3. C. M Mills "Michael Mills"
    45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Foundation is the exciting chronicle of England from prehistoric times through the reign of King Henry VII, November 9, 2012
    By 
    C. M Mills “Michael Mills” (Knoxville Tennessee) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    “Foundation” is the eighth book by Peter Ackroyd perused by your humble reviewer. The reason I mention this fact is to manifest the great productivity evinced by Ackroyd one of Britain’s most prolific authors. Ackroyd has written many works of fiction as well as such smash non-fictional tomes as “London”; “Charles Dickens” “Thames” and “Thomas More.” Foundation was a publishing sensation in England and promising to do well in the United States. It is the first volume of a proposed multivolumed history of Great Britain.
    Ackroyd presents all the major politcal events in the long pageant of British history culminating in the first Tudor King Henry VII. Volume II will begin with the reign of Henry VIII. Ackroyd:
    a. Succinctly summarizes the reigns of British monarchs. Especially interesting were the reigns of William the Conqueror who defeated Harold in 1066 establishing Norman power in England. The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England for centuries. Also of interest were the reigns of Henry II who had Archbishop Thomas a Becket murdered; Richard I the Lionheart and King John.
    b. Several battles are analyyzed from Hastings to Agincourt to the dynastic War of the Roses in the calamatious 14th century.
    c. Many chapters report on the way people lived in the Medieval period including the daily schedule of a market town; the food which was eaten; trade and roads; religious beliefs and English law. The Black Death and the strong movement towards a centralized government in London are given attention by the author.
    Some of Amazon critics have attacked the book for being boring but this is wrong! The book is a popularly written account spotlighting the basic data needed by a literate person to buttress understanding of how England evolved over the centuries. The book is not a detailed history but serves to whet one’s interest in British history and life. A bibliography is provided by Ackroyd for those who would wish to read and learn more.
    d. Ackroyd writes in a lively style one would expect of a novelist. He is able to keep the reader’s interest. However, reigns and battles can become tedious reading. The book is best if it slowly read aiding comprehension of such a vast subject.
    The long book contains many memorable quotable quotes. Among them:
    “The building of Stonehenge was the largest and most protracted programme of public works in the history of England.” (p.10)
    “Trade is the key to the growth of civilizations”- (p. 15)
    “The country village was not some comfortable and affable idyll; for its poorest residents it was a form of outdoor prison”-p.
    (73)
    “The church was not always used for sacred purposes. The contemporary literature suggests that it might be a meetingplace, a covered market or even an alehouse.”-(p. 75).
    “The objects of medieval life are still recovered from the ground…wooden stools…two locks…Medieval life was dominated by the key.”-(p. 95)
    “The origins of the manor are still a matter of debate.”-p.(106).
    “The instincts of the Anglo-Norman lords was for battle;like the salamander, they lived in fire.”-(p. 123)
    “Life for the majority of the English people was nasty, brutish and short.”-(p. 235). Ackroyd is here commenting on the Black Plague of the 14th century.
    “Foundations” has whetted my taste for continuing to study volume II and learn more about the great English nation. Plaudits to Peter Ackroyd for his fine book!

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  4. 168 of 168 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    The Fall of the Empire… and the Start of the Foundation, 3-1/2 stars, 403 Pages, Publ 1988, May 31, 2006
    By 
    Antinomian (Washington, DC) –

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Prelude to Foundation (Foundation, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
    This novel has a subtle beginning. I would take a little to time reading the beginning to absorb Asimov’s setting and style here. The science of psychohistory that laid out the Foundation had to start somewhere, and this is where it starts and with Hari Seldon. So there’s a lot written of Seldon’s early life and a lot about different sections of the Galactic Empire capital planet of Trantor. Seldon is not represented as some sort of superman, but if you’ve read other books in the Foundation series, as someone to admire, and is seen as a person outside of just psychohistory. Sort of like seeing the famous photograph of Albert Einstein riding a bicycle. And as others in the Empire see the potential power of psychohistory, even before Seldon does, thus begins the race to harness that power. The joy, and the point, in reading this novel is in the knowing the eventual power of psychohistory and thus how it develops. Seldon has to be persuaded to progress his theory of psychohistory by the other interesting characters in the novel. Can you imagine, early in the 20th century, having to go “come on Albert, will you at least *try* to develop the theory of General Relativity”.

    There are two type of readers that would be potentially interested in reading this book for the first time: those that have read the traditional Foundation series and are wondering if they should continue here with this prequel, and those that haven’t read the originals and are wondering if they should start here. For the former, sure with the understanding that Asimov’s style will be different 40 years after he wrote the novellas of the original series, and for the former, no, I would start with Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy. His original series is almost essential 40’s/50’s science fiction, and if one doesn’t like that series, one is not going to care about the characters and events in Prelude To Foundation.

    From the Author’s Note and adding Forward The Foundation which was written afterwards (I may have left out a book or two), there are 15 books (a quint-decology?) in Asimov’s universe. They are:

    1. The Complete Robot (includes every story of I, Robot)

    2. The Caves of Steel

    3. The Naked Sun

    4. The Robots of Dawn

    5. Robots and Empire

    6. The Currents of Space

    7. The Stars, Like Dust–

    8. Pebble in the Sky

    9. Prelude to Foundation

    10. Forward the Foundation

    11. Foundation

    12. Foundation and Empire

    13. Second Foundation

    14. Foundation’s Edge

    15. Foundation and Earth

    Books 1 to 5 are Asimov’s Robot series, books 6-8 his Empire series, and books 9 to 15 his complete Foundation series. They were initially separate series, but he used books 5, 9, and 10 to encompass them all into one series.

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  5. R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu)
    27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    The beginning book of the famous Foundation series., June 26, 1999
    By 
    R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) (Gainesville, Florida, USA) –

    This review is from: Prelude to Foundation (Foundation, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
    In 1988, Asimov published a prequel to his famous Foundation series. He also uses this book to continue to tie in other novels that he had already written, most notably all of the robot stories, particularly involving R. Daneel Olivaw and Lije Baley, as well as “Pebble in the Sky” (1950) (in fact, in such a larger scheme, “Prelude to Foundation” follows “Pebble in the Sky” and precedes “Forward the Foundation” (1993)). In this novel, he finally uses Hari Seldon as a main character. A young assistant professor of mathematics, Hari Seldon, travels to the planet Trantor (the governing planet of the galactic empire) to present a paper at a convention on a new field he has begun referred to as psychohistory. In his paper, Seldon suggests that it might be theoretically possible to develop mathematical equations and techniques of analyses to predict, with strong statistical analysis, future events of human history on a broad scale (in which the discipline only is applicable to extremely large numbers of people). Asimov provides some hints that this field might use chaos theory as well, although he never uses that term. Seldon also believes that, while theoretically possible, it isn’t practical. There are those, however, who believe that the galactic empire is collapsing and hope to use a developed psychohistory theory to help direct human society. Seldon finds himself running from the Emperor’s agents and hiding in various different enclaves throughout the planet Trantor, and thus learning more and more about Trantor (those reviewers who criticize this trek are obviously missing its importance in the greater scheme of the series). He is attempting to find a smaller model of galactic populations that would allow him the ability to develop his theory. There are legends that tens of thousands of years ago, man had lived on only one planet: Earth. He is hoping to find some historical evidence for Earth and, in so doing, he discovers some surprising facts and events. I am probably unusual in that I enjoyed this book the most in the series. Perhaps its because I also live in an academic environment and see many similarities to Hari’s problems. Asimov was obviously drawing on his own experiences.

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  6. 28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A fascinating starting point, May 22, 2000
    By 

    This review is from: Prelude to Foundation (Foundation, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
    This is the first Foundation-novel I read. After finishing it, I immediately went to the bookstore to buy 10 other Asimovs, which should say enough.. . . The galaxy sketched by Asimov is so colorfull and realistic, one is driven to read the entire book at once. Each department of Trantor has its own characteristics, just like each culture on our tiny ‘Aurora’. The problems created by these differences are parallel to ‘ours’ as well. As I recognised the Big Galactic Problems Asimov adresses in this book in our modern society, I was curious to see the development of the special solution Hari Seldon tried to find for them. You can recognise the scientist in Asimov, when Hari Seldon is asking himself questions about the development of his psychohistory. I was very curious about the answers lined out in the following novels. Furthermore, I was fascinated with the idea of our Earth transformed into a mere legend, and the unexplainable ‘Easterns’ and ‘Westerns’ spread into the vast galaxy. Last but not least, the plot was very surprising. Asimov tricked me into some wrong ideas the entire novel. I am reading ‘Foundation and Empire’ now, and I’m still totally obsessed with it, so I recommend this series to everyone who likes SF-novels as well as social sciences.

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