Dan Jones spectacular new (to America) history of England's Plantagenet dynasty from its founding by Geoffrey of Anjou to Richard II's loss of the Crown to Henry of Bolingbroke, or 1120-1399. It was a span of English history that saw the signing of the Magna Carta, the conquest of Wales, and the first half of the Hundred Years' War. The Plantagenet kings included some of the most well known English monarchs (well known even here in America)--Richard the Lionheart, John, and Edward Longshanks. It also included less well known (at least by me), but equally important, monarchs--Henry II and Edward III. Of lesser repute were Henry III, Edward II, and Richard II (and Jones accepts the conventional wisdom that John belongs in that group).
Military tactics evolved from sieges led by mounted knights to pitched battles won by archers and dismounted men-at-arms. The two centuries saw not only the Magna Carta (and the Charter of the Forest) but a number of other, important charters (and the Magna Carta itself needed constant renewal against kings chafing under its yoke). We see English power erode in France and grown in Wales and Scotland.
Covering two centuries of history in a single volume is a tall order. Jones succeeds, but the task requires certain sacrifices nonetheless. The Plantagenets is a history of England, but it is one told through the eyes of its kings. The focus is on England's great battles and the struggle for power between the king and the barons. Jones does a particularly great job at tracking the progress of the great charters the barons forced out of successive kings. While the period covered saw the "strong elective element to kingship" be replaced by a more direct method, it conversely saw the devolution of power away from the king to the barons (and, later, beyond). Jones also goes well beyond that to show how England's legal institutions evolved over the same period (e.g., after 1178 the royal council was stationed permanently in Westminster to hear legal cases full-time instead of following the king wherever he went).
It also has enough battles, court intrigue, and salacious details to keep the narrative briskly moving along (George R.R. Martin likely got as much inspiration from his period as from the War of the Roses). This isn't one of those big, contextual histories, but Jones admirably manages to both cover a lot of ground and avoid leaving the reader confused.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of The Plantagenets via NetGalley.