The fascinating and authoritative history of the institution at the cultural heart of Britain
The history of Parliament is the history of the United Kingdom itself. It has a cast of thousands. Some were ambitious, visionary and altruistic. Others were hot-headed, violent and self-serving. Few were unambiguously noble. Yet their rowdy confrontations, their campaigning zeal and their unstable alliances framed our nation.
This first of two volumes takes us on a 500-year journey from Parliament's earliest days in the thirteenth century through the turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses and the upheavals of the Civil Wars, and up to 1801, when Parliament – and the United Kingdom, embracing Scotland and Ireland – emerged in a modern form.
Chris Bryant tells this epic tale through the lives of the myriad MPs, lords and bishops who passed through Parliament. It is the vivid, colourful biography of a cast of characters whose passions and obsessions, strengths and weaknesses laid the foundations of modern democracy.
“This magnificent book... Bryant is a fine historian. His understanding of political processes shines through. After this epic the next volume will be eagerly awaited”
Leo McKinstry, Express
“A bravura ‘biography’ of Parliament… both charming and important… A carefully constructed and lucidly written adventure story about the institution that – like it or not – still shapes our lives”
Roy Hattersley, Telegraph
“Admirably comprehensive… and written in the kind of lucid, elegant prose now rarely associated with our elected representatives”
“a fascinating study into the lives and reputations of those who, honourable or not, have sat as parliamentarians... compelling reading”
Chris Skidmore, Times Literary Supplement
“This book tells the story of our greatest national institution. It is well-written, contains much truth, and a great deal of important information. It is a wonderful idea.”
“Lively... a warts-and-all account of how MPs have first survived and subsequently shaped and initiated policy”
“This is a wonderful, wry view of the history of parliament "from the inside". Chris Bryant is a great myth-buster. If you ever thought that modern MPs were more corrupt or worse behaved than their predecessors, then read on. You'll find it's not quite so simple.”
“A remarkably readable and scholarly account of the emergence of the British Parliament over its first five hundred years or so”
“A wonderfully iconoclastic yet affectionate history ... Bryant tells the story with clarity and verve.”
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University
“Worthy of its venerable subject”
Independent on Sunday