“The history of England cannot be written without a careful account of its sovereigns.” Unfortunately. All but the most advanced readers will find the Anglo-Saxon kings, and the contending houses in the Wars of the Roses, a bit of a blur. But they still matter. The “best” kings were ruthless predators, the worst weaklings who made a mess of things. Still, Acrkroyd argues that they nearly all left their personal imprint on the foundations of the nation. The peasants just didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. You know all this, and Ackroyd tells the old story well enough. Where he does allow himself to stray from the path I had doubts (it doesn’t seem likely to me that Henry IV died of syphilis, and it is not a “popular superstition” that the Black Death was carried by rats – at least one form of it almost certainly was), but for a general overview this will suffice.