British History Book List

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General Notes
This list contains a selection of books on British history for children, old and new, fiction and non-fiction,  including as many as possible with an emphasis on the Christian history of the British Isles. Many are out of print, but may be available from libraries or can be found through Amazon, other online booksellers or Ebay.

Age Suitability
Most of the books are suitable for children aged 9 or 10 upwards, though a few are aimed at younger children, and many could be read aloud to under 10s. Books listed as being for older children are either darker in tone or have content requiring greater maturity. These books are likely to be suitable for children aged 12 and over.

Health Warning

I have not read every book on this list. Titles have been collected from reliable sources, are by authors I know, or have received good reviews. Where I am aware that a book has content that some parents may prefer to avoid, I have made a note of this.

Other Book Lists
Mary Moffat's Reviews - a very extensive UK-based list of historical fiction for children, all with reviews

General Histories

Our Island Story (H.E.Marshall) - narrative history of Britain written in the early twentieth century. While out of date in some respects, it is still the best retelling of British history as a story available. Recently republished in both the UK and the US.

Britannia (G.MacCaughrean) is a colourful and engaging history storybook, with an eclectic mixture of history and myth. Each story concludes with a section giving the historical context. This book as also been issued as a series of shorter books - Knights, Kings and Conquerors; Daredevils and Desperados; Rebels and Royals; Ghosts, Rogues and Highwaymen;  Movers, Shakers and Record Breakers - but these do not have the illustrations included in the original volume.
Note: A handful of stories have content you may consider unsuitable, for example the story of how naked ladies were sent to tempt Saint David. These can easily be avoided if you read the stories aloud.

People in History (R.J.Unstead) - a collection of forty six stories about historical characters, from Roman Britain through to 20th century. Out of print.

Kings and Things (H.E.Marshall) - another narrative history of England for younger children by author of Our Island Story. Rather more fanciful and with irritating overuse of capital letters, but a good first history book for, say, 6 to 8 year olds

The Fearless Treasure - A Story of England from Then to Now (Noel Streatfeild) - out of print. Social history of England told in story form, by an author of classic children's fiction.

2000 Years: The Christian Faith in Britain (N.Currie, pub.Lion 1999) is a short (40 pages) DK style illustrated book on the history of Christianity for children.

Our Island Saints
(Amy Steedman) - out of print, but available online at www.mainlesson.com

Stories from the English Saints (J.Richardson) - a collection of saints' stories, mainly pre-Reformation.

Batsford Living History Series (out of print) - a series of themed books written for secondary aged children (11+) in the 1960s by leading writers of children's historical fiction. Titles and authors are:-
Monks and Monasteries (Cynthia Harnett) - story of over 20 English monasteries and the monks who lived in them
Battles and Battlefields (David Scott Daniell) - stories of 15 battles from Stamford Bridge to Culloden
Explorers and Exploration (David Scott Daniell) - describes the voyages and journeys of 12 British explorers
Castles and Kings (Henry Treece)
Houses and History (Rosemary Sutcliff)
The Tower and the Traitors (Barbara Leonie Picard)


Early Britain

Warrior Scarlet
(Rosemary Sutcliff) - can a young boy with a useless arm earn his place as a warrior with his tribe?

Outcast (Rosemary Sutcliff)

Beric the Briton (G.A.Henty)


Roman Britain

The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff) - a young Roman tries to find out what happened to the Ninth Legion, lost years before in northern Britain. First in a trilogy about Marcus Aquila; the second and third books are The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers.

The Capricorn Bracelet (Rosemary Sutcliff) - collection of stories following a family of soldiers through 300 year Roman occupation of Britain

Word to Caesar
(Geoffrey Trease)

Between the Forest and the Hills (Lawrence) - fun and fantasy, set during the later years of Roman Britain

Older Children
Song for a Dark Queen (Rosemary Sutcliff) - story based on the life of Boudicca (or Boudicea), queen of the British Iceni tribe.

The Queen's Brooch
(Henry Treece) - the story of Boudicca seen through the eyes of a Roman legionary. Powerfully written. Includes some graphic violent scenes (these were violent times).


King Arthur


Note: Retellings of the story of King Arthur all include an element of romance and mentions of adultery which some parents may prefer to avoid..

The King Who Was and Will Be (Kevin Crossley-Holland) [US Title: The World of King Arthur and His Court] - the facts behind the myth. Includes explanations of the origins of the Arthurian legends, details of characters, explanations of aspects of knighthood and chivalry, and much other background material.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (Roger Lancelyn Green) - my favourite retelling of the Arthurian legends, by a friend of C.S.Lewis

King Arthur
(Matthews and Utton) - illustrated retelling of the story of Arthur, broken up into short sections.

The Sword in the Stone
(T.H.White) - classic, humerous version of the years before Arthur became king.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Selina Hastings) - a high quality picture book. Also a sequel -
Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady

At the Crossing Places, The Seeing Stone
and King of the Middle March (Kevin Crossley-Holland) - a trilogy written by an author with a long-standing interest in Anglo-Saxon England. Not a retelling of the Arthurian legends, but include King Arthur as a character.


Celtic Saints

Knights of God
(Patricia Lynch) - stories of Irish saints, including Patrick, Brendan, Brigid and Kevin.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland (Tomie de Paola) - simply told story in beautifully illustrated picture book. Great for sharing with younger children (age 4+)


Anglo-Saxon England


Augustine Came to Kent (Barbara Willard) - a must read for anyone interested in the history of Christianity in Britain. The story of an Anglo-Saxon boy brought up in Rome, who together with his father returns to England as part of St.Augustine's mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons.

Dragonslayer: The Story of Beowulf (Rosemary Sutcliff) - classic retelling by a great writer.

Beowulf (Kevin Crossley-Holland) - illustrated version of the story of Beowulf. Shorter and simpler than Dragonslayer. Well told but with rather bizarre black-and-white illustrations.

Beowulf the Warrior (Ian Serraillier) - a top quality retelling of Beowulf story

The Dragon and the Raven (G.A.Henty)

Mist Over Athelney (Geoffrey Trease) - set in the time of King Alfred

The Namesake
and The Marsh King (C.Walter Hodge) - the story of Alfred

Sea Stranger, Fire-Brother and Earth Father (Kevin Crossley-Holland) - three stories about St.Cedd, missionary to the East Saxons, and Wulf, a Saxon boy he converts. Set in 7th century. Originally published as three separate short volumes.

Older Children
Hengest's Tale (Jill Paton Walsh) - story of the early Anglo-Saxon settlement of England.

Wordhoard (Kevin Crossley-Holland and Jill Paton Walsh) - eight stories of Anglo-Saxon England, some fictional, some based on contemporary sources. Subjects covered include the Anglo-Saxon invasions, the story of Caedmon, King Alfred, the Battle of Maldon and the Norman Conquest.


Vikings

Beorn the Proud (Madeleine Polland) - a 12 year old Irish girl sees her village destroyed by Viking raiders and is taken back to Denmark by Beorn, a Viking boy. After the death of Beorn's father, the Viking chief, both the children and the kingdom of Denmark are at risk from Beorn's ambitious cousin. A strong Christian theme, as the girl is determined not to abandon her Christian faith and tries to teach the young Viking that humility can be better than pride. One of my favourite books!

Sword Song (Rosemary Sutcliff) - story of a Viking boy who becomes a mercenary soldier.

The Orchard Book of Vikings (Robert Swindells) - illustrated collection of stories from Norse mythology.

Norse Myths
(Kevin Crossley-Holland) - another illustrated story collection with a slightly higher reading / comprehension level.

Viking! (Kevin Crossley-Holland) - more Viking mythology


Medieval Britain: 1000-1300

The Battle of Hastings
(Scholastic Double Take series) - story of the Battle of Hastings told from both sides. (Non-fiction)

The Striped Ships (Eloise Jarvis MacGraw) - set after the Norman Conquest. A Saxon girl helps to make the Bayeux Tapestry. Out of print and unfortunately hard to find.

Shield Ring
(Rosemary Sutcliff) - also set in the time of the Conquest

Wulf the Saxon
(G.A.Henty)

Harold Was My King
(Hilda Lewis)

Hounds of the King
(Geoffrey Trease) - story of King Harold in 1066

The King's Shadow
(Elizabeth Alder) - historical fiction about Norman Conquest based on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

If All The Swords in England
(Barbara Willard) - twin boys find themselves separated, one in the service of King Henry II and the other a clerk in the entourage of the future saint Thomas Becket.

The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
(Eleanor Jewett) - a crippled boy is left at Glastonbury Abbey during the reign of Henry II.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
(Roger Lancelyn Green) - classic version of the Robin Hood story by a friend of C.S.Lewis

Robin of Sherwood
(Michael Morpurgo) - a boy in 20th century England relives the story of Robin Hood in a dream. A rather different take on the legend.

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
(E.Konigsburg) - story of Eleanor of Aquitaine told by her friends as they wait in heaven for the possible arrival of her husband, King Henry II.

The Lost Baron
(Allen French) - set in Cornwall in 1200

Castle Diary: the Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page (Platt and Riddell) - illustrated account of the life of a young page in a medieval castle. Fun!

The Minstrel in the Tower
(Gloria Skurzinsky)

Saint George and the Dragon
(Geraldine MacCaughrean) - picture book

Saint George and the Dragon
(Margaret Hodges) - another picture book, beautifully illustrated and based on Spenser's Faerie Queen.

The Door in the Wall
(Marguerite de Angeli)

Adam of the Road
(Elizabeth Grey)

The Runaway Serf (Geoffrey Trease) - part of a series of historical fiction written for younger children (6+)

Older Children
The Ramsey Scallop (Temple) - a young betrothed couple are sent on a pilgrimage [Sonlight]

Catherine, Called Birdy (Karen Cushman) - personally I find Karen Cushman's books too modern in tone, and on occasions anti-clerical, but many people enjoy them

A Rare Benedictine
(Ellis Peters) - first in long series of books about medieval monk and sleuth, Brother Cadfael

Murder in the Cathedral
(T.S.Eliot) - stage play telling the story of Thomas Becket.


Medieval Britain 1300-1500


The Gauntlet (Ronald Welch) - a modern boy shares his ancestors' adventures in a 14th-century Welsh castle. One of a series following a single family through different historical periods.

Bowman of Crecy
(Ronald Welch) - a band of outlaws from the Welsh borders join Edward III's army during the 100 Years' War

Fire, Bed and Bone (Henrietta Branford) - story of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 from a dog's perspective

The Canterbury Tales (Geraldine MacCaughrean) - illustrated retelling of Chaucer.

The Gentle Falcon
(Hilda Lewis) - story of Isabella of France, the child bride of Richard II, told by a young lady-in-waiting.

Ring Out Bow Bells
(Cynthia Harnett) - set in London in the time of Henry V. First of a quartet of books set in 15th century England. Top quality historical fiction. [US title: The Sign of the Green Falcon]

Here Comes Harry
(Hilda Lewis) - a boy apprentice befriends the young Henry VI

The Writing on the Hearth
(Cynthia Harnett) - a young clerk is caught up in the political intrigues of the mid-15th century [US title: The Cargo of the Madalena]

The Load of Unicorn
(Cynthia Harnett) - the son of a family of scriveners (scribes or copyists) is apprenticed to William Caxton, pioneer of printing. [US title: Caxton's Challenge]

Older Children

Matilda Bone
(Karen Cushman) - a young girl is apprenticed to a bone setter. Lots of information about medieval medicine. Negative view of formal religion.

The Midwife's Apprentice (Karen Cushman) - story of a homeless girl with no name.

The King's Swift Rider
(Mollie Hunter) - about Robert the Bruce

Tales From Chaucer (Eleanor Farjeon) - best retelling of Chaucer I have seen. Out of print.

Henry V
(Shakespeare)

The Black Arrow: a Tale of Two Roses (R.L.Stevenson) - classic fiction set during the Wars of the Roses.


Tudor Britain (1485-1601)


The Wool Pack
(Cynthia Harnett) - my favourite of Cynthia Harnett's books. Two children uncover a plot to ruin the boy's father. Masses of accurate detail about the late medieval wool trade. The story includes childhood betrothal. [US title: The Merchant's Mark]

Henry, King to Be
(Geoffrey Trease)

The Queen's Smuggler
(Jackson) - the story of William Tyndale
The Hawk that Dare not Hunt by Day (O'Dell)
The Bible Smuggler (Louise Vernon)
- three stories on the same theme, written from a Protestant perspective

Elizabeth I: The Royal Diaries
(Kathryn Lasky)

The Young Elizabeth
(Jean Plaidy) - somewhat romanticised version of Elizabeth's life before she became queen

Good Queen Bess
(Diane Stanley) - one in a series of beautifully illustrated historical biographies by this author.

The Sea King: Sir Francis Drake (Marin)

Traveller in Time
(Alison Uttley) - a young girl staying with relatives in the country finds herself slipping from the 20th century into the past and becoming entangled with the family who lived in the house in Tudor times, when Sir Anthony Babington took a leading part in a plot to engineer the escape from captivity of Mary, Queen of Scots. A real historical event (the Babington Plot) is merged into gentle historical fiction.

Edmund Campion
(Harold Gardiner) - story of an Elizabethan saint and martyr. Catholic perspective on the English Reformation.

Shakespeare: His Work and His World
(Michael Rosen) - engaging introduction to Shakespeare: the man, his times and his work. Includes synopses of four of his plays. Beautifully illustrated.

Bard of Avon (Diane Stanley) - another of her illustrated biographies

Shakespeare Stories
(Leon Garfield) - two volumes of retellings by a master storyteller.

Stories from Shakespeare
(Geraldine MacCaughrean) - simpler version than Garfield's

Cue for Treason
(Geoffrey Trease) - two runaway children fall in with a group of strolling players. A fun adventure story involving Shakespeare and a plot against Queen Elizabeth. A favourite of mine

The Shakespeare Stealer and Shakespeare's Scribe (Gary Blackwood)

Kingdom of Shadows (Susan Cooper) - modern boy goes back to the Globe Theatre in time of Shakespeare

Who Was....?: William Shakespeare
(Rupert Christiansen)

Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal
(Robert Reilly) - Irish queen and her son struggle against Queen Elizabeth of England

Older Children
Mary, Bloody Mary (Carolyn Meyer) - story of the young Queen Mary

Beware, Princess Elizabeth
(Carolyn Meyer)

A Murder for Her Majesty
(Hilgartner)

The Spanish Letters
(Molly Hunter) - Elizabethan spy story


Stuart Britain


Hunt Royal
(David Scott Daniell) - story of the escape of the future King Charles II from his Roundhead pursuers during the English Civil War.

When the Drums Beat (Geoffrey Trease) - Civil War. For younger children

The Children of Green Knowe
(Lucy Boston) - a 20th century child 'meets' the ghosts of a family of Cavalier children.

Children of Winter
(Berlie Doherty) - three children spend a winter hidden in a barn alone in an attempt to escape the plague.

Master Cornhill (Eloise Jarvis MacGraw) - a boy returns to London after the plague of 1665 to find his family gone. Tells how he builds a new life and survives the great fire of 1666.

Popinjay Stairs
(Geoffrey Trease) - story focused on Samuel Pepys

Pilgrim's Progress
(Geraldine MacCaughrean) - retelling for children of classic Christian allegory by John Bunyan (Protestant)

Traitor in the Tower (Jackson) - biography of John Bunyan (written from a Protestant perspective)

The Great House
(Cynthia Harnett) - one of her less well known books, aimed at slightly younger children than her others. Story of two children in the 1690s, with an underlying architectural theme.

Martin Hyde (John Masefield) - story of the Monmouth Rebellion against James II. Can be downloaded free from Project Gutenberg.

Trumpets in the West (Geoffrey Trease) - set at the time of the overthrow of James II (1688). Musical theme, involving the composer Henry Purcell

Older Children
Children of the New Forest (Captain Maryatt) - classic 19th century fiction about a family of children forced to fend for themselves during the English Civil War

Down Ryton Water (Gaggin) - story of the journey of the Pilgrims from England to New England.

A Parcel of Patterns (Jill Paton Walsh) - based on the true stor of Eyam, a village which chose to shut itself off from the world rather than risk passing on the plague.

 

Georgian Britain 

Flame Coloured Taffeta (Rosemary Sutcliff) - a young girl cares for an injured man. Is he smuggler? Or a Jacobite?

Bonnie Prince Charlie - A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden
(G.A.Henty)

The Young Pretenders (Barbara Leonie Picard) - a young girl and her brother, both secret supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie, hide a man they imagine to be an escaping Jacobite.

Can't You Make Them Behave, King George? (Jean Fritz) - George III and the American Revolution.

Chimney Sweep's Ransom (Jackson)
A Heart Strangely Warmed (Louise Vernon)
- two books about John Wesley, the founder of Methodism

Dagger in the Sky (Alan Gibbons) - set during the Industrial Revolution. Two children with very different backgrounds meet (mill owner / mill worker).

The Black Lamp (Peter Carter)

The Spy Catchers (Geoffrey Trease) - threat of invasion during Napoleonic wars, c.1800. For younger children (6+)

Older Children

Bonnie Dundee (Rosemary Sutcliff) - tells the story of one of the heroes of the Jacobite rebellion.

Moonfleet (J.Meade Falkner) - classic fiction set in Dorset. Smugglers, hidden treasure and heroic friendship.

The Ghosts of Glencoe
(Molly Hunter) - story of the Battle of Glencoe and the massacre of Highlanders during the Jacobite rebellion


Victorian Britain 

The Stove Haunting (Bel Mooney) - 20th century boy taken back to the time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs (1835)

The December Rose
(Leon Garfield) - story of a boy chimney sweep.

The Blue Death
(Judy Allen) - true story of the 1854 London cholera outbreak and the doctor who discovered the cause of the disease.

The Sentinels (Peter Carter)

Victoria, May Blossom of Britannia, England 1829
(Anna Kirwan) - Royal Diaries series

Queen Victoria
(Noel Streatfeild) - non fiction [World Landmark series]

Victoria: the Story of a Great Queen (Elisabeth Kyle) - ideal for younger children [Nelson's Picture Biographies]

Who Was....?: Queen Victoria (Kate Hubbard) [Short Books]

Thieves of Tyburn Square (Jackson) - Elizabeth Fry

Florence Nightingale (Ruth Fox Hume) [World Landmark series]

Who Was....?: Florence Nightingale (Charlotte Moore) - biography suitable for age 8-12. No illustrations [Short Books]

The Drummer Boy's Battle
(Jackson) - story about Florence Nightingale

Escape from the Slave Traders (Jackson) - David Livingstone

Who Was....?: David Livingstone (Amanda Mitchison) [Short Books]

The Gate in the Wall (Ellen Howard) - a Victorian mill girl ends up working on a canal boat

Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce) - time slip takes a twentieth century boy into a Victorian garden

Black Beauty
(Anna Sewell) - famous tear-jerking story of a horse

The Warden's Niece (Gillian Avery) - a girl runs away from school to live with her uncle, an Oxford academic. She joins the boys next door for lessons with an eccentric tutor, and learns how to use a library to solve a mystery. Fun.

The Greatest Gresham
(Gillian Avery) - a Bohemian family moves to Victorian suburbia

The Butty Boy
(Jill Paton Walsh) - a young girl runs away from home on a canal boat

Thursday's Child
(Noel Streatfeild) - three children run away from an orphanage

No Horn at Midnight
(Geoffrey Trease) - adventure story set around early years of the railways

Older Children

Victoria (Jean-Loup Chiflet) - non-fiction.

Grace (Jill Paton Walsh) - story of lighthouse heroine Grace Darling. The effects of publicity on Grace and her family are thought provoking. 

 

Early 20th Century Britain

Miss Rivers and Miss Bridges
(Geraldine Symons) - fictional account of the suffragettes, fighting for votes for women in the early years of the 20th century.

The Children of Charlecote
(Philippa Pearce & Brian Fairfax-Lucy) - true story of 4 children growing up in a country house before WWI

The Runaways
(Elizabeth Goudge)

The Railway Children (E.Nesbit)

Older Children

Bring Out the Banners (Geoffrey Trease) - another book about Suffragettes. Includes graphic description of brutal treatment of women by the authorities.


World War I 

War Game (Michael Foreman) - 4 young men from Suffolk go to fight in the trenches. Tells the story of the famous football match in No Man's Land that took place on Christmas Day 1914

War Horse
(Michael Morpurgo) - story of a farm horse sold to the army and sent to the Western Front in 1914

Charlotte Sometimes
(Penelope Farmer) - a schoolgirl from the 1960s and another from WWI accidentally change places. Note: This book has a seance scene
 

World War II 

Dolphin Crossing (Jill Paton Walsh) - children help to evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940

Never Give In
(Stephen Mansfield) - biography of Winston Churchill

Friend or Foe
(Michael Morpurgo) - some boys find a ditched German plane

Carrie's War (Nina Bawden) - story of a girl evacuated to the country

War Boy: A Country Childhood (Michael Foreman) - autobiography

Goodnight Mister Tom (Michelle Magorian) - moving story of a young evacuee and an old man.

One Small Suitcase (Barry Turner) - story of the kindertransporte, Jewish children sent to Britain from Germany. Non-fiction.

When the Siren Wailed
(Noel Streatfeild) - story of three children evacuated to Dorset

In Spite of All Terror
(Hester Burton) - another story of a schoolgirl evacuee

Evacuee
(Gabriel Alington) - story of wartime evacuation & pleasures and responsibilities of friendshlp