In Britannia Graham Stewart traces two thousand years of an island's story – from Roman province to twenty-first century European nation-state – through one hundred historic documents.
From the eighth-century Lindisfarne Gospels to the great testament of Norman bureaucracy, the Domesday Book, and from the designs for the Union Jack in 1606 to Neville Chamberlain's 1938 Munich agreement with Hitler, the documents selected embrace a wide range of national endeavours: politics and religion, warfare and diplomacy, economics and the law, science and invention, literature and journalism, as well as sport and popular music. Thus the first edition of The Times rubs shoulders with the rules of the newly formed Marylebone Cricket Club; the designs for Stephenson's Rocket with the Catholic Emancipation Act; Lord Kitchener's iconic First World War recruitment poster with Clause Four of the Labour Party's constitution; and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album cover with Britain's accession treaty to the European Economic Community.
These are documents that not only defined their own eras, but which continue to resonate today: Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights became vital legal curtailments of arbitrary royal power; medieval election writs and nineteenth-century reform acts shaped the creation of parliamentary democracy; the great translations of the Bible, the plays of Shakespeare and Dr Samuel Johnson's Dictionary have left indelible marks on the English language; while the influence of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations continues to guide how we do business.
Stylishly written and generously illustrated (including numerous reproductions of the documents themselves, twenty-four of them in full colour), Britannia should belong to anyone who is curious to learn more about the historic roots of our culture, society, language, religious traditions and political institutions.