Britain Begins

Britain Begins

By (author) Barry Cunliffe

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Impressive in every sense, this hugely ambitious and assured book takes as its subject the entire history of the British Isles from the end of the last Ice Age and their physical emergence as islands all the way down to the Norman Conquest. Barry Cunliffe's magisterial narrative is abetted by correspondingly high production values, and whilst complex ideas are explained with admirable clarity, making the book an ideal introduction to Britain's prehistory and early history, there would be plenty here for the most seasoned professional to enjoy and profit from. Cunliffe kicks off with an examination of the ways in which our ancestors have conceived the distant past, from medieval myths to the dawn of modern archaeology. The remainder of the book is roughly chronological in structure. Prominent themes include the 'problem of origins', where Cunliffe's own research has been of such significance (the Celtic from the west hypothesis is synthesised here with concision and flair), and the importance of communication, connectivity and cultural transmission is emphasised throughout, with the Channel, the Atlantic and the North Sea seen as highways linking Britain and Ireland to the continent and building up an ongoing narrative which is anything but narrowly insular.

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  • Hardback | 553 pages
  • 195.58 x 246.38 x 35.56mm | 1,247.37g
  • 06 Jan 2013
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford
  • English
  • many col illus
  • 0199609330
  • 9780199609338
  • 150,362

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Author Information

Barry Cunliffe is Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford. A leading authority on British prehistory, he has excavated widely in Britain and in the Channel Islands, Brittany, and Spain. His books include the awarding-winning Facing the Ocean and Europe Between theOceans. He has been President of the Council for British Archaeology and of the Society of Antiquaries, Governor of the Museum of London, and a Trustee of the British Museum. He was knighted in 2006.

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Review quote

Cunliffe's text is lively and thoroughly accessible and is supported by nearly 300 high-quality figure drawings and photographs... The book is beautifully produced. Britain Begins is a model of its kind, but this particular beginning may be an impossible act to follow. TLS Barry Cunliffe's beautiful and enthralling Britain Begins (Oxford) puts us all in our place. Andrew Motion, Books of the Year 2012, Guardian A beautifully illustrated, erudite book. His clear and deeply knowledgeable text is brought to life by hundreds of bright, glossy images and detailed, extremely helpful maps ... this is an invaluable introduction to Britain's earliest years. Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph Cunliffe steers a masterful course thorugh more than 11 millennia of human development ... This beautifully produced and informative work of synthesis and interpretation will provide an ideal starting point for those interested in the British past and a useful point of re-engagement for those who feel that thet are already over-familiar with the basic narrative. BBC History Magazine Barry Cunliffe's account is handsomely produced and impeccable in its scholarship, the nearest thing we have to a definitive account of Britain's story from the end of the ice Age to the Norman Conquest. The Scotsman Sweeping from the end of the last Ice Age to the eve of the Norman Conquest, this book contains a vast amount of information, accessibly presented. It is an enjoyable journey, and one that never loses sight of the wider picture. Current Archaeology The best available synthesis of research on the early peopling of these islands ... with marvellous maps and illustrations. Stephen Howe, The Independent When it comes to hard facts, Cunliffe has the data, and the often dramatically beautiful or startling photographs to give them life. His whole account must create a renewed respect for our British and Irish ancestors. Tom Shippey, The Guardian

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