Francis Pryor

Where to Start

Britain Begins


Oxford University Press 553pp £30 order from our bookshop

This large book is both rewarding and demanding. It offers information in abundance and, like Sir Barry Cunliffe’s previous publications from OUP, it is beautifully written and illustrated. But what makes Britain Begins so exceptional is its geographical and chronological scope. From the outset, our islands (Ireland is included) are placed fairly and squarely on our own area of the continental shelf. We are then taken on a journey through time, starting at the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago. That journey continues throughout prehistory, but it doesn’t end, as so many other books do, with the coming of the Romans. Instead, it continues right up to the Age of the Northmen (the Vikings and Normans), drawing to a close around AD 1100. In a world where everything seems to be served up in myopic soundbites, such breadth of vision is wonderfully refreshing – and very enlightening.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,