Our Island Story, by H.E. Marshall
Our Island Story, by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, was first published in 1905. This children’s history of Britain - from the time of the Romans up until the death of Queen Victoria - became an instant classic. Beautifully written, with the narrative sweep of the finest fiction, Our Island Story went through many editions and remained one of the most popular one-volume histories of Britain up until its final edition in 1953.
It was difficult to obtain for many years until, in 2005, Civitas published a new edition. The response was overwhelming, with older readers recalling the impact the book had had on them and introducing younger readers to it for the first time.
For many, it provided a welcome, renewed emphasis on narrative history which had been lacking in education for too long. A thematic approach to the study of history had emptied it of the chronological context without which it is impossible to understand how we have got to where we are today.
As the historian Lady Antonia Fraser writes in the foreword to the Civitas edition: "The reprinting of this book brings the way that history is taught back into sharper focus. Much has been written about the decline in the learning of 'chronological' history, of the fading out of narrative history, of the rise, at the cost to all, of social history that seeks to promote 'empathy' yet robs history of its context. Marshall is a great reminder of the power of narrative history."
Our Island Story provides children with a sense of the narrative arc of Britain's history, with such key events as Magna Carta, the Civil War and the Great Reform Bill. Every chapter is headed with the name of the reigning monarch. Wars and revolutions, plagues and inventions, great men and women, all parade through these pages, giving the young reader a brilliant picture, simple but accurate, of the way in which our ancestors made us the people we are today.
"When I was younger, I particularly enjoyed Our Island Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall. It is written in a way that really captured my imagination and which nurtured my interest in the history of our great nation.”
- David Cameron, Prime Minister
"The delight of Our Island Story lies in its emphasis on personality, the unalloyed certainty that Britain has produced some remarkable people, and some extraordinary tales."
- Ben Macintyre, The Times
"The reason that parents will go to such lengths to try to track down copies of Our Island Story is because of the sheer quality of the writing. Telling a story from history might be old-fashioned, but it stimulates a child's imagination like nothing else."
- Andrew Roberts
"Our Island Story, first published in 1905, must rank as one of the most influential works of history of the 20th century."
- Times Higher Educational Supplement