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Jean M
09-10-2012, 02:40 PM
Barry Cunliffe, Britain Begins, due out in hardback October 2012. Out in Kindle edition



The last Ice Age, which came to an end about 12,000 years ago, swept the bands of hunter gatherers from the face of the land that was to become Britain and Ireland, but as the ice sheets retreated and the climate improved so human groups spread slowly northwards, re-colonizing the land that had been laid waste. From that time onwards Britain and Ireland have been continuously inhabited and the resident population has increased from a few hundreds to more than 60 million. Britain Begins is nothing less than the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples, from around 10,000BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Using the most up to date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques which help us to trace the origins and movements of these early settlers, Barry Cunliffe offers a rich narrative account of the first islanders - who they were, where they came from, and how they interacted one with another. Underlying this narrative throughout is the story of the sea, which allowed the islanders and their continental neighbours to be in constant contact. The story told by the archaeological evidence, in later periods augmented by historical texts, satisfies our need to know who we are and where we come from. But before the development of the discipline of archaeology, people used what scraps there were, gleaned from Biblical and classical texts, to create a largely mythological origin for the British. Britain Begins also explores the development of these early myths, which show our ancestors attempting to understand their origins. And, as Cunliffe shows, today's archaeologists are driven by the same desire to understand the past - the only real difference is that we have vastly more evidence to work with.

Prof. Cunliffe has done his usual brilliant job of popularisation without sacrificing accuracy. His lucid handling of the data from multiple disciplines is a joy to behold. Unlike authors obsessed with continuity, he talks happily about our mongrel race and discusses the various migrations that went into the mixture. I'm afraid that the claim of using new work on DNA is not really born out. If anyone is expecting an early look at the results from the People of the British Isles project - no joy. But for a lovely read with attractive illustrations, it is the goods.

scottraveler
09-10-2012, 03:35 PM
Barry Cunliffe, Britain Begins, due out in hardback October 2012. Out in Kindle edition




Prof. Cunliffe has done his usual brilliant job of popularisation without sacrificing accuracy. His lucid handling of the data from multiple disciplines is a joy to behold. Unlike authors obsessed with continuity, he talks happily about our mongrel race and discusses the various migrations that went into the mixture. I'm afraid that the claim of using new work on DNA is not really born out. If anyone is expecting an early look at the results from the People of the British Isles project - no joy. But for a lovely read with attractive illustrations, it is the goods.

"Underlying this narrative throughout is the story of the sea, which allowed the islanders and their continental neighbours to be in constant contact." This sentence which was part of the review you quoted struck me in an odd way. Was the reviewer saying the sea which separates the isles from the continent facilitated contact between the two? I would doubt it; my default view would be it led to more separate developments on isles and continent than would have happened under land connections (which we know existed for part of the post-LGM period in any case). Or was the reviewer saying something like: "the sea is always part of the isles narrative; but nevertheless it was not so intrusive that it prevented constant contact between isles and continent"?

Jean M
09-10-2012, 03:50 PM
The book comes in a series of works in which Prof. Cunliffe has developed his ideas of a long cultural connection along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe, starting with Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500 (2001) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Facing-Ocean-Atlantic-Peoples-8000/dp/0199240191/).

MikeWhalen
09-10-2012, 05:37 PM
One thing I've learned over the last several years in this hobby, is how waterways were seen as highways and not barriers...
Napoleon and a few other fellows like him excepted, it seems to me our ancient kin were pretty dang comfortable with boats and ships, and the English channel at its narrowest would not have tested them at all...well, not on a nice calm day anyway

my 2 cents

Mike