1215 and All That: A Very, Very short history of Magna Carta

Is available from Amazon. This began as an ebook in 2015 and was last year bought by Skyhorse to publish in print form. The downside is that I lost all the reviews for the original, and as the Spectator’s Rory Sutherland wrote, when a company upgrades a product now they do not always give it a new name because they want to keep its positive record. (I realised this when I bought a mini-hoover this year which was listed as the same product as the old one and yet was clearly a whole new and improved upgrade.) Anyway, 1215 and All That (2017 edition) is a sort of new product, 50,000 words compared to the ebook’s 30,000, so in fact not that short at all.

The subject concerns King John, a coward, glutton, lech and drunk – in fact there is almost nothing bad to say about him at all. Here’s a brief summary, at the New Statesman, of why he’s my favourite monarch.

Gerald of Wales called John “a tyrannous whelp”; another chronicler, William of Newburgh, said he was “nature’s enemy”. Even one of John’s own generals, who was on his payroll, conceded that he was “a very bad man, cruel and lecherous”. The kindest word comes from twentieth-century historian RV Turner, who wrote that “compared with Hitler and Stalin… John seems quite tame” – not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The book is only published in the US, although you can buy it from Amazon anywhere. For review copies or inquiries, email me here.


What do you think?