In inviting prose with polemical power, Dees digs into greater detail to focus specifically on the Magna Carta and the Forest Charter, which, he argues, were the first documents to place the law above the king, granting the common people effective rights. Echoing Engels, the English Civil War, too, is presented here as another in a series of class conflicts, in which Cromwell stands for the wealthy merchants, rouses the common people, and defeats the king.
Dees writes in a loose and humorous tone but with real passion and attention to detail. The reader may wish he had the space to go into more detail or end his history with a more robust conclusion (rather than a passing reference to coffeeshops and Isaac Newton), though the book’s origin as an excerpt perhaps explains its structure. Anyone interested in the economic story of England who wants to dive into the political conditions which led to dispossession and violence will appreciate Dees’s incisive, engaging, and pointedly outraged history.
Takeaway: Brief, class-minded history of England with an emphasis on economics.
Comparable Titles: E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, Rodney Hilton’s Bond Men Made Free.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-