The Debatable Land

The Debatable Land : The Lost World Between Scotland and England

3.66 (21 ratings by Goodreads)
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`A book worth reading' Andrew Marr, Sunday Times

The Debatable Land was an independent territory which used to exist between Scotland and England. At the height of its notoriety, it was the bloodiest region in Great Britain, fought over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James V. After the Union of the Crowns, most of its population was slaughtered or deported and it became the last part of the country to be brought under the control of the state. Today, its history has been forgotten or ignored.

When Graham Robb moved to a lonely house on the very edge of England, he discovered that the river which almost surrounded his new home had once marked the Debatable Land's southern boundary. Under the powerful spell of curiosity, Robb began a journey - on foot, by bicycle and into the past - that would uncover lost towns and roads, reveal the truth about this maligned patch of land and result in more than one discovery of major historical significance.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, The Debatable Land takes us from a time when neither England nor Scotland could be imagined to the present day, when contemporary nationalism and political turmoil threaten to unsettle the cross-border community once more. Writing with his customary charm, wit and literary grace, Graham Robb proves the Debatable Land to be a crucial, missing piece in the puzzle of British history.

Includes a 16-page colour plate section.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 163 x 241 x 32mm | 633g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main Market Ed
  • 1509804684
  • 9781509804689
  • 17,730

Table of contents

Section - i: List of Illustrations
Section - ii: List of Figures
Section - iii: A Guide to Pronunciation

Unit - 1: PART ONE
Chapter - 1: Hidden Places
Chapter - 2: Outpost
Chapter - 3: Panic Button
Chapter - 4: The True and Ancient Border
Chapter - 5: `The Sewer of Abandoned Men'
Chapter - 6: Mouldywarp
Chapter - 7: Beachcombing
Unit - 2: PART TWO
Chapter - 8: Blind Roads
Chapter - 9: Harrowed
Chapter - 10: `Loveable Custumis'
Chapter - 11: Accelerated Transhumance
Chapter - 12: Skurrlywarble
Chapter - 13: Exploratores
Chapter - 14: Windy Edge
Chapter - 15: `In Tymis Bigane'
Unit - 3: PART THREE
Chapter - 16: 'Stob and Staik'
Chapter - 17: `Rube, Burne, Spoyll, Slaye, Murder annd Destrewe'
Chapter - 18: The Final Partition
Chapter - 19: Hector of ye Harlawe
Chapter - 20: Scrope
Chapter - 21: Tarras Moss
Chapter - 22: `A Factious and Naughty People'
Chapter - 23: Silence
Unit - 4: PART FOUR
Chapter - 24: Graticules
Chapter - 25: The Kingdom of Selgovia
Chapter - 26: `Arthur'
Chapter - 27: The Great Caledonian Invasion
Chapter - 28: Polling Stations
Chapter - 29: No Man's Land
Chapter - 30: The River

Section - iv: Appendix
Section - v: Chronology
Section - vi: Notes
Section - vii: Works Cited
Index - viii: General Index
Index - ix: Geographical Index
Acknowledgements - x: Acknowledgements
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Review quote

Robb's forays through the region, by bike and in archives, is timely, revisionist and entertaining * Daily Telegraph, Summer Reading 2018 * Rising from this roving, poetic account, which dips in and out of memoir, anecdote and history, is a sense of loosely documented but fierce regional drama . . . Throughout, Robb unpicks ballads and legends - the stuff of old propaganda - with a warm but pleasingly sceptical approach. His search throws up surprises. Reading this book at times resembles a ramble through richly tangled terrain with a guide who is joyously diverted by discovery . . . Its paths deserve to be retaken slowly, chapter by chapter - but the walk is always worthwhile. -- Jenny McCartney * Mail on Sunday * It is three-parts history (as you would expect of Robb's historical pedigree) and one-part nature writing. A vision of a marginal place (or at least marginal to the urban centres, not to itself of course) through time, written against a backdrop of both the 2014 independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit vote -- Teddy Jamieson * Herald (Scotland) * Innovative methodology, rejection of mythology, precise expression . . . such a wonderful book -- Harry McGrath * Scottish Review of Books * Travelogue, history and elucidation, this book is one of timely exploration. Going backwards, it goes forwards and there are many felicities along the way . . . The Debatable Land has excellent illustrations and indices. Elegant and with learning lightly worn, it is, in every respect, an exemplary and topical book, a perfect paradigm of its kind. -- Ross Leckie * Country Life * An original and surprising book . . . he ranges with admirable ease over the centuries . . . Robb doesn't move far from his new home, yet this is a travel book, with a journey in time as well as space . . . the twists and turns of imagined and reimagined history brood over this richly wonderful book -- Allan Massie * The Oldie * Graham Robb, apart from being a distinguished historian, biographer and literary critic, is one of our most accomplished travel writers . . . he bicycles with the speed and ferocity of a Scottish reiver through these lost flatlands of history -- Hugh Thomson * Spectator * Diverting asides animate Robb's revelatory account of this oft-overlooked and understudied part of the United Kingdom . . . The Debatable Land ends with a brace of discoveries. The first is a key to understanding Ptolemy's second-century map of Britain, hitherto thought inaccurate, which will surely be invaluable to future historians. The second is the earliest account told from a British point of view of a major battle in these islands. This is all fascinating. -- Alan Taylor * Literary Review * This is a book written as much on the road as in the library . . . Robb's book is both a scholarly work of revisionism and an entertaining read . . . One of the pleasures of this book is to watch Robb, like a frontier dodging reiver, slip between past and present, between manuscript and moor, between battlefield site and the 127 bus -- Michael Kerr * Daily Telegraph * It's a book worth reading . . . it contains several glories, much fine writing and the odd (very odd) wonder. -- Andrew Marr * Sunday Times * Scholarly nonfiction written with novelistic flair . . . The Debatable Land was neither English nor Scottish but a law unto itself, and it became notorious as the centre of reiver violence . . . But Robb, like a conjuror, gradually shows us the Debatable Land as something else . . . his exploration of its history is punctuated by some terrific nature writing * Observer * A detective outing on native soil. Armed with energy, humour, a poet's eye and a bicycle - all things his fans will be familiar with - Robb probes the received wisdoms of the past . . . His skill as a writer is to understand, without being fey, the fourth dimension: peeling back the modern landscape to find buried stories * The Times * Graham Robb is a remarkable writer . . . [his work] displays curiosity, intellectual vitality, wide-ranging sympathies, and a keen eye for unexpected detail. This new book will fascinate everyone with a knowledge of the geography, history, mythology and character of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands . . . No short review can do justice to the intelligence, charm, variety and sheer interest of this book. Read it, and you will be richly entertained and enlightened. * The Scotsman * Sorting out the fact from the fiction in this history is one of Robb's tasks. He tackles some serious misconceptions about the borderland . . . Robb intercuts the past and present, the intimate and the impersonal, to wonderful effect. Few authors write so well about things lost and neglected - or have such sharp ears and eyes for the natural world -- Ian Jack * Guardian *
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About Graham Robb

Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He has published widely on French literature and history. His 2007 book The Discovery of France won both the Duff Cooper and Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prizes. For Parisians (2010) the City of Paris awarded him the Grande Medaille de la Ville de Paris. He lives on the English-Scottish border.
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Rating details

21 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 14% (3)
4 43% (9)
3 38% (8)
2 5% (1)
1 0% (0)
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