Volume one is an in-depth examination of how the English monarchy came into being, and how England became a nation state. It begins with Rome, the 'fount' from which all modern western European countries spring. The importance of the contrasting cultural and intellectual heritage of the Anglo-Saxons is underlined. Wessex, round which England coalesced in the ninth and tenth centuries, was a participatory society which balanced an effective monarchy at the centre with institutions of local governement which required - and got - the active involvement of most free men. It was this combination which enabled Wessex to survive and absorb the Viking invasions, and finally to thrive.
Then came the crisis of the Norman invasion when, as one contemporary put it, 'God ordered that the English should cease to be people'. But - as David Starkey demonstrates - the English proved resilient, and within forty years of the battle of Hastings had conquered Normandy. The values and practices of Anglo-Saxon politics had triumphed and the English nation state had been reborn.
This is popular history of the most exciting and challenging kind.