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The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens by Mike Ashley

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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The Bottom Line

Too many books on British monarchs either start with William I or ignore Scotland and Wales entirely. 'The Mammoth' may have problems, but it at least trys to cover everything under its remit and I find it a vital 'first-line' reference work. Please use caution before citing.
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Pros

  • Includes many more monarchs than usual - greater breadth.
  • Cheap compared to specialist lists of early monarchs.

Cons

  • Factual inaccuracies and opinions presented as fact.

Description

  • 808 pages, plus introduction and index.
  • Published by Constable Robinson, 1999.
  • Originally published as 'British Monarchs' in 1998 by Robinson.

Guide Review - The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens by Mike Ashley

In my experience, history books entitled 'The Mammoth', 'The Best', or 'Unexplained' are loosely assembled compilations to be avoided by anyone wanting facts, and definitely avoided by students after a good mark! Mike Ashley's 'The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens' has shaken me out of that conclusion because, while it's far from perfect, it truly is mammoth: over 800 pages with nearly a thousand monarchs. While some of those may not actually exist – and as they’re outside the 'legendary monarchs' section there's little to warn the reader about this – they certainly appear in sources.

Monarchs have an entry summarising their life and achievements, ordered geographically within a larger chronological breakdown; this can be difficult to use if you're not sure when or where your subject lived, but there's an index, something reference works occasionally lack. There are also maps, family-trees, a summary of European monarchs, a rather limited gazetteer and some 'lists'. The latter are the book's weakest feature: while 'The Longest Reigning Monarchs' is safe, anyone citing the highly opinionated 'Monarchs who were or may have been Homosexual' is going to get in trouble. Indeed, readers should be wary of every fact in this book until they've cross-referenced it elsewhere. So why four stars? Getting all these monarchs, real or otherwise, into one book is a major achievement that's produced a very useful general reference at a cheap price.

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