Francis Pryor

Where to Start

Britain Begins

By

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,