What is a history of the English language? To a native speaker, the answer to this question might seem obvious: the story, from beginning to end, of the language that we use every day. But a history of the English language raises the prickly question of what one means by English. Who speaks “true” English, and are these speakers British, American, Scottish, or Australian, or something else entirely? Is the history of English the history of a written language, or must such an inquiry contend with the divergent dialects and accents of English speakers around the world? In A History of the English Language, N. F. Blake abandons the traditional framework that divides history into three major periods: Old English, Middle English, and Modern English, arguing that these periods were originally chosen because of their political, as opposed to linguistic, significance. Dating the emergence of the ideal of a unified English language to the reign of King Alfred, Blake illustrates the way in which, since its origin, the concept of English has been largely a political and educational one. Detailing the influence that many parent languages – West Saxon, Latin, and French, to name a few – had on the emerging tongue, Blake brings insight into the dynamic role that other languages continue to play in shaping English.