The Thames


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Jonathan Schneer

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England's great river through the ages.

The Thames, England’s greatest river—for centuries an aid to trade, a stalwart of national defense, a stage for some of England’s greatest historical events, an inspiration to some of England’s best poets and artists, a challenge to engineers. Yet while there is a constancy in the history of the river, there is also change. The Thames chartsthe diverse meanings of the river over the course of millennia, from prehistoric to modern times.

From the elephants on the bank of the prehistoric river to Caesar’s expeditionary force; from King Alfred’s battleships to the signing of Magna Carta; from the river’s role in both the coronation and execution of Anne Boleyn to seventeenth-century frost fairs and the first performance of Handel’s ‘Water Music’; from Turner’s view of the river as arcadia through its bombardment during the Blitz, The Thames providesan intimate portrait of the waterway at the heart of English history.

Blending elegant prose with historical detail, this exceptional book superbly brings to life the river Winston Churchill once vividly described as “a golden thread in the national tapestry.”

Jonathan Schneer was born in New York City. He has taught at Yale University and is currently professor of modern British history at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He has written three books about British labor and more recently a cultural history of London at the turn of the twentieth century titled London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis, published by Yale University Press.

“Jonathan Schneer guides us along a renowned element of the English landscape with an alert and seasoned eye, surprising us with stories drawn together by this common watery thread. Famous spectacles, private reveries, urban designs—from these, he sketches a deeply satisfying survey of centuries, captured through the prism of history lived on and along the River Thames.”—Deborah Valenze, Columbia University


"An excellent topic, and an altogether pleasurable book. The Thames is central to British history, but there is no other book like this on the subject. The Thames is clear, compelling, and frequently lyrical."—James Cronin, Boston University

“Beautifully written, wide-ranging and rich in anecdote, Schneer’s history of the nation’s most famous river flows effortlessly, merging its waters with the ebb and flow of English history. It brilliantly combines a bird’s eye view of the Thames with wonderful close-ups of the many people—from prehistoric hominids to today’s bankers of Docklands—who have inhabited its shores.”—John Brewer, author of The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century

“This resplendent book combines a dramatist’s empathy with people and a scholar’s devotion to facts. . . . A magnificent, multi-layered achievement, a ’must-read’ for all lovers of London.”—Liza Picard, author of Elizabeth’s London, Restoration London, and Dr. Johnson’s London

"For anyone who wishes to learn of the history of one of the most important rivers in the world, this is the book to turn to. In engaging prose, Jonathan Schneer charts the vital and enriching role the Thames has played in English history."—Peter Stansky, Stanford University

“Here is a rich and satisfying riverbank picnic of a book. The narrative sparkles and gurgles like the river itself. Sometimes grim and always thought-provoking, our history flows through it.”—Robert Lacey, author of The Year 100 and Great Tales from English History

“A sparkling and informed work buttressed by numerous endnotes and a very good bibliography. The book abounds with memorable insights. . . . An imaginative, rewarding essay on the Thames and English history. Highly recommended.—Choice

"Schneer has written a compelling history of the river Thames. . . . Recommended for all libraries."—Library Journal

"Events are described by the author in a lively style and an overriding sense of the importance of the river in the life of the nation."—Charles Stephen, Lincoln Journal-Star

"A book that will greatly please Anglophiles. . . . This is a book that will reward handsomely anyone with a real interest in the entire sweep of British history. The book is well written, and though it reflects the vast knowledge of a serious scholar, it is highly readable."—Lou Tanner, Virginia Quarterly Review

"A rich, interesting book and there is much for a popular reading audience to enjoy."—John Cramsie, History

"Overall, this ambitious book commands attention in its arguments and scope for as the author notes the 'Thames is England's history, it is the thread woven through the tapestry of national history.'"—Alex Warner, International Journal of Maritime History

"With elegant prose and well-crafted storytelling, Schneer tells a history of England from the thirteenth century to the present though the river, looking at the events that happened around it as well as the significance ascribed to it. . . . There is something of real value to environmental historians here."—John Broich, Environment and History

"The Thames [is] a rather wistful, sighing read—an elixir of nostalgia and unrequited memory. A perfect gift for the contemporary Anglophile and first-time London traveler. . . . The book's power is in its associative aesthetic, and the stories are so vividly told that we will not forget them. . . . This evocative and beautiful book offers an example of the craft required to tell a good story."—Susan D. Pennybacker, Victorian Studies

Selected for Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries, 2006
ISBN: 9780300107869
Publication Date: May 11, 2005
360 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
33 b/w + 8 color illus.
London 1900

The Imperial Metropolis

Jonathan Schneer

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