'Great Britain? What was that?' asks Simon Schama at the start of this, the second book of his epic three-volume journey into Britain's past. The answer emerges in The British Wars, a compelling chronicle of the changes that transformed every strand and stratum of British life, faith and thought from 1603 to 1776. Travelling up and down the country and across three continents, Schama explores the forces that tore Britain apart during two centuries of dynamic change - transforming outlooks, allegiances and boundaries.
'The British wars began on the morning on July 23 1637, and the first missiles launched were stools. They flew down the nave of St Giles's Cathedral in Edinburgh and their targets were the Dean and the Bishop...' The first round of the wars had been fired, and fired on grounds of faith. Over the next 200 years, other battles would rage on other battlegrounds - both at home and abroad, on sea and on land, up and down the length of burgeoning Britain, across Europe, America and India. Most would be wars of faith - waged on wide-ranging grounds of political or religious conviction. But as wars of religious passions gave way to campaigns for profit, the British people did come together in the imperial enterprise of 'Britannia Incorporated'.
The story of that great alteration is a story of revolution and reaction, inspiration and disenchantment, of progress and catastrophe, and Schama's evocative narrative brings it vividly to life.
'Great Britain? What was that?' Whatever it was, it was a place of dynamic and dramatic change, the shifting patterns of which are skilfully captured on Schama's rich and teeming tapestry of The British Wars.show more