616 pages, illustrations, maps
From the end of the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago) to the death of Winston Churchill in 1965, Adrian Sykes narrates the history and achievements of these islands, their inhabitants and their origins, through the stories of some 3000+ men and women who have shaped not just our history but the modern world.
The story is interspersed with countless inventions, deeds of daring do and wickednesses, as well as the origins of innumerable words and phrases, often surprisingly early, from Nosey Parker – Elizabeth I of her Archbishop of Canterbury, to mayonnaise – the battle of Mahon, which the victorious French admiral celebrated by inventing mayonnaise and after which we hanged Admiral Byng who lost it "to encourage the others", as Voltaire put it. Sykes astonishes on every page, whether with the origin of everyday phrases or nursery rhymes or the countless inventions of the British, from the lead pencil (1568), the tin can, the bicycle, screw propeller and jet engine to DNA, LCD crystals, cement, the electric kettle, the vacuum cleaner and Marmite. Beautifully illustrated and with maps of exceptional clarity, this is a book hard to put down in which you learn something very surprising on every page.
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Adrian Sykes was born in Quetta, Baluchistan (British India, now Pakistan) in October 1945. Educated in Britain, he served in the British Army then worked in the City of London, with appointments overseas, for 40 years. He lives in East Anglia.