The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

Surprisingly good. Jones covers almost 300 years of history at a pace that feels perfect: not so fast that you miss out on interesting details, not so slow that you ever want to stop reading. Each chapter zooms in on just a few years, keeping them short and easily digestible but still giving him space to tell a dramatic story.

Three things I learned:

  1. I always thought England went thousands of years without an invasion by a foreign power: from 1066 to the present. Turns out France invaded during the chaos at the end of the reign of King John (who you may remember as the villain in most Robin Hood movies).
  2. In many ways, the early Plantagenet kings were really French lords that happened to have the throne of England. They spent most of their time in France, since that’s where most of their wealth and power came from. John was the first king to spend the majority of his time in England, and the local barons got so sick of him they forced him to sign the Magna Carta.
  3. I thought the Glorious Revolution was the first time parliament deposed and chose a king, but really it goes back into the Plantagenet era: both Edward II and Richard II were deposed via parliament – Edward in favor of his son, Edward III, and Richard in favor of Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV.