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A History of Ancient Britain

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Who were the first Britons, and what sort of world did they occupy? In A HISTORY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN Neil Oliver turns a spotlight on the very beginnings of the story of Britain; on the first people to occupy these islands and their battle for survival. There has been human habitation in Britain, regularly interrupted by Ice Ages, for the best part of a million years. The l Who were the first Britons, and what sort of world did they occupy? In A HISTORY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN Neil Oliver turns a spotlight on the very beginnings of the story of Britain; on the first people to occupy these islands and their battle for survival. There has been human habitation in Britain, regularly interrupted by Ice Ages, for the best part of a million years. The last retreat of the glaciers 12,000 years ago brought a new and warmer age and with it, one of the greatest tsunamis recorded on Earth which struck the north-east of Britain, devastating the population and flooding the low-lying plains of what is now the North Sea. The resulting island became, in time, home to a diverse range of cultures and peoples who have left behind them some of the most extraordinary and enigmatic monuments in the world. Through what is revealed by the artefacts of the past, Neil Oliver weaves the epic story - half -a-million years of human history up to the departure of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD. It was a period which accounts for more than ninety-nine per cent of humankind's presence on these islands. It is the real story of Britain and of her people.


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Who were the first Britons, and what sort of world did they occupy? In A HISTORY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN Neil Oliver turns a spotlight on the very beginnings of the story of Britain; on the first people to occupy these islands and their battle for survival. There has been human habitation in Britain, regularly interrupted by Ice Ages, for the best part of a million years. The l Who were the first Britons, and what sort of world did they occupy? In A HISTORY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN Neil Oliver turns a spotlight on the very beginnings of the story of Britain; on the first people to occupy these islands and their battle for survival. There has been human habitation in Britain, regularly interrupted by Ice Ages, for the best part of a million years. The last retreat of the glaciers 12,000 years ago brought a new and warmer age and with it, one of the greatest tsunamis recorded on Earth which struck the north-east of Britain, devastating the population and flooding the low-lying plains of what is now the North Sea. The resulting island became, in time, home to a diverse range of cultures and peoples who have left behind them some of the most extraordinary and enigmatic monuments in the world. Through what is revealed by the artefacts of the past, Neil Oliver weaves the epic story - half -a-million years of human history up to the departure of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD. It was a period which accounts for more than ninety-nine per cent of humankind's presence on these islands. It is the real story of Britain and of her people.

30 review for A History of Ancient Britain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Neil Oliver is proving to be a historian of some note. The tie in TV series of the same name was excellent, and the book maintains that. It covers the periods of history from the Mesolithic to the Romans, covered in relatively broad brush strokes whist having enough detail to captivate. A must read for history fans.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tim Vicary

    This is a beautiful book. Neil Oliver presented the BBC TV series on this subject, which got me hooked, and he writes wonderfully, with a real enthusiasm and reverence for the subject. There are so many things here I didn't know, about the immense spread of time before written history, the trade and communications throughout this ancient world, their astonishing knowledge of astronomy, mining, and metal work, and much more, all based on archaeological discoveries which becoming more extensive an This is a beautiful book. Neil Oliver presented the BBC TV series on this subject, which got me hooked, and he writes wonderfully, with a real enthusiasm and reverence for the subject. There are so many things here I didn't know, about the immense spread of time before written history, the trade and communications throughout this ancient world, their astonishing knowledge of astronomy, mining, and metal work, and much more, all based on archaeological discoveries which becoming more extensive and sophisticated all the time. I find I have to read it slowly, section by secion, but every page is fascianting, and he puts it all in the context of our own brief moment in time and space. Thoroughly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Absolutely beautiful. This is exactly what I like in a work of non-fiction: clear, concise, yet beautiful and flowing, the writing takes you to unknown places and times, giving you the microscopic details and the plane window view of ancient Britain. Particularly, I immensely enjoyed the passion that the author managed to express in writing, and how he manages to see magic in old ruins, a blacksmith's fire and a long dead skeleton. Spellbinding and smartly written, the sections are well tied int Absolutely beautiful. This is exactly what I like in a work of non-fiction: clear, concise, yet beautiful and flowing, the writing takes you to unknown places and times, giving you the microscopic details and the plane window view of ancient Britain. Particularly, I immensely enjoyed the passion that the author managed to express in writing, and how he manages to see magic in old ruins, a blacksmith's fire and a long dead skeleton. Spellbinding and smartly written, the sections are well tied into each other and create a coherent narrative, one which takes you on the most pleasant historical journey. I would recommend this to any curious reader, but also to any history buff.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gilda Felt

    I really enjoyed this book. There’s a lot of information, but the book never becomes dry or boring. Oliver’s writing is interesting, even funny at times, but never dull. I hadn’t read much regarding this particular time in Britain’s history, but this book quickly brought me up to speed, being immensely satisfying and informative. A wide range of ages is covered, starting with the retreating ice 12,000 years ago (with a side trip to the beginnings of man,) to the retreat of the Romans seventeen ce I really enjoyed this book. There’s a lot of information, but the book never becomes dry or boring. Oliver’s writing is interesting, even funny at times, but never dull. I hadn’t read much regarding this particular time in Britain’s history, but this book quickly brought me up to speed, being immensely satisfying and informative. A wide range of ages is covered, starting with the retreating ice 12,000 years ago (with a side trip to the beginnings of man,) to the retreat of the Romans seventeen centuries later. In between, you’re treated to the story of Bronze and Iron age people, and the invaders, and settlers, who would make the island their home. It’s a thoughtful and intensive history of the beginnings of Britain’s story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Interesting in parts, but some of Oliver's claims about prehistoric culture are dubious, e.g. he explains the rapid spread of farming by assuming that land would have been inherited according to primogeniture in 5000 BC, but asserts no evidence for this. Also it could bear some fact-checking: phases of the moon are not due to the shadow of the earth, as this is only cast on the moon during lunar eclipses, which only happen at full moon. Francis Pryor's Britain BC is better. More tentative, to be Interesting in parts, but some of Oliver's claims about prehistoric culture are dubious, e.g. he explains the rapid spread of farming by assuming that land would have been inherited according to primogeniture in 5000 BC, but asserts no evidence for this. Also it could bear some fact-checking: phases of the moon are not due to the shadow of the earth, as this is only cast on the moon during lunar eclipses, which only happen at full moon. Francis Pryor's Britain BC is better. More tentative, to be sure, but Pryor aims to offer the reader a consideration of the evidence, rather than a yarn.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    There is something about Neil Oliver that is completely enthralling. Whether it is watching him weave his magic on the television, or reading his books, his passion for his subject is paramount. His enthusiasm is contagious. His knowledge utterly enviable. He is a fascinating story-teller of tales that are true. As the written version of the BBC's documentary series of the same name, A History of Ancient Britain is certainly no exception. Although it is quite lengthy and absolutely packed-full of There is something about Neil Oliver that is completely enthralling. Whether it is watching him weave his magic on the television, or reading his books, his passion for his subject is paramount. His enthusiasm is contagious. His knowledge utterly enviable. He is a fascinating story-teller of tales that are true. As the written version of the BBC's documentary series of the same name, A History of Ancient Britain is certainly no exception. Although it is quite lengthy and absolutely packed-full of information, it doesn't feel "bogged down" in detail. A History of Ancient Britain is perfectly fluid, and easy to read and understand. It takes its reader back to the earliest pre-history, when humankind first stepped foot on the British Isles and made it their home, and then traces the evidence of their presence, customs and beliefs right through to the end of Roman occupation. It is a mind-boggling and truly awe-inspiring journey. Recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I've never normally been much of a fan of books written to accompany television series, much less history books. They tend to be too shallow for me, not enough detail and focus, and assume such a total lack of any pre-knowledge that means I find myself getting impatient with what is to me obvious information. Probably not a fair response, but you know, it's me and I'm the one reading these books. so... But I'm happy to say that this book, written to accompany the BBC documentary series of the sa I've never normally been much of a fan of books written to accompany television series, much less history books. They tend to be too shallow for me, not enough detail and focus, and assume such a total lack of any pre-knowledge that means I find myself getting impatient with what is to me obvious information. Probably not a fair response, but you know, it's me and I'm the one reading these books. so... But I'm happy to say that this book, written to accompany the BBC documentary series of the same name, was a delight to read from start to finish. Neil Oliver is an engaging presenter and his enthusiasm for his topic spills over onto every page. And added to that he is a fine writer, with a real skill for a poetic turn of phrase. I could hardly put this book down it was so interesting and well-written. The only times I did was when I had to turn to the computer to Google images of the artefacts and sites he was writing about. Of course, it helps that it's a fascinating subject - the ancient pre-history of Britain, how these islands took on their shape, how the people who lived here became Britons, how we evolved from the Stone Age through to the Bronze and Iron Ages before becoming a recognisably more modern society with the advent of the Roman invasion. From burial mounds to passage tombs, handaxes to bronze swords, roundhouses, preserved boats, hunters and farmers, technological innovations and religion and magic, it's all here in this book. In Britain we are blessed with so much history, so much still surviving that we scarcely pay attention to - if nothing else, this book has made me pay a little more attention to the world around me. Time and again Oliver makes reference to features I've walked past a dozen times - man-made hills, stone circles, hill-forts, ramparts and ditches - and made me realise how little we appreciate that traces of our ancient past surround us still all the time, how we are still very much a product of that world.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Camilla

    A History of Ancient Britain is nothing less than a thoughtful, fascinating and enlivening account of life in ancient Britain, starting way back with the ice ages and leading up to the time of the Romans. Neil Oliver reveals the incredible extent of the layers of human occupation of Britain, referring to 'deep time' as the sense of the massive history that lies beneath us all. All through the book I found myself wanting to mark pages that mentioned places I'd love to go and see, or go and look u A History of Ancient Britain is nothing less than a thoughtful, fascinating and enlivening account of life in ancient Britain, starting way back with the ice ages and leading up to the time of the Romans. Neil Oliver reveals the incredible extent of the layers of human occupation of Britain, referring to 'deep time' as the sense of the massive history that lies beneath us all. All through the book I found myself wanting to mark pages that mentioned places I'd love to go and see, or go and look up more information on the internet about some or other interesting artefact. The book is a companion to? result of? the BBC series of the same name, which I'd watched before I read the book, so the entire text played itself back in my head in Neil Oliver's lovely Scottish accent (*swoon*). Having already seen his enthusiasm for his subject on the small screen, it wasn't hard to imagine his excitement and awe at some of the places and artefacts he examined, which weren't covered in the series. My only regret is that not all of the things he saw were included in the two photograph sections, but then, that's what the internet is for, isn't it? My mental map of Britain is already marked up for our next foray across the Channel. And now I'm going to buy his other book, A History of Scotland.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    I picked this up in the Stonehenge visitor centre shop when visiting this summer, feeling after my wander around the great site that I should improve my knowledge of prehistoric Britain. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the TV series on which the book is based, but I found the book itself rather disappointing. There are massive gaps in the story presented here. The primary emphasis seems to be on what bones and artefacts tell us, as well as what seems to me to be rather unscientific speculations abou I picked this up in the Stonehenge visitor centre shop when visiting this summer, feeling after my wander around the great site that I should improve my knowledge of prehistoric Britain. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the TV series on which the book is based, but I found the book itself rather disappointing. There are massive gaps in the story presented here. The primary emphasis seems to be on what bones and artefacts tell us, as well as what seems to me to be rather unscientific speculations about religion and the meaning of life 10,000 or 4,000 or 2,000 years ago. What I desperately missed was: discussion of languages; when and how writing became prevalent; technology developments (other than just the arrival of bronze, iron, etc.); how livestock and arable farming techniques progressed; diet; changes in body shape and size; the landscapes within which our ancestors lived and how these were changed by man over time. There were a few brief mentions of such topics, but they seem poorly covered when compared to page after page about burial chambers unearthed and how these reflected an awareness of "something" beyond day-to-day life. So, for me at least, an unsatisfactory read...I couldn't wait to finish the book, actually. I guess I shall need to look for other sources to satisfy my curiosity about the period.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I really enjoyed this. Neil Oliver's writing is engaging and fun. Given the broad breadth of topic ... all the way from the pre-historic Ice Ages to the retreat of the Roman Empire from the Isles of Britannia ... Oliver held my interest throughout. I read this as I'm starting a Masters in Celtic Studies, and I'm glad I did. It has helped me visualise the timeline of our pre-history and place various periods, peoples and events in better context. It also helped identify acedemic arguments and think I really enjoyed this. Neil Oliver's writing is engaging and fun. Given the broad breadth of topic ... all the way from the pre-historic Ice Ages to the retreat of the Roman Empire from the Isles of Britannia ... Oliver held my interest throughout. I read this as I'm starting a Masters in Celtic Studies, and I'm glad I did. It has helped me visualise the timeline of our pre-history and place various periods, peoples and events in better context. It also helped identify acedemic arguments and thinkings in a 'broad-brush' approach; this will prove invaluable to me as I delve ever deeper into detail. His explanation of DNA is brilliant; especially for a Tolpuddle like me. It would have also been nice to have gone into more detail about the Celts and Romans, but I understand (given the broad scope of topic) how this might not have been plausible given the broad nature of the book. The only word of caution I might mention is that, on occassion, Oliver engages in flights of fancy that border on fiction in order to get a point across. This is great (I enjoyed it) as a person interested in history and can see the benefit in terms of engagement, but from an academic point of view it might be sniffed at. Not by me though. It was fun. Loved it. Recommend to all.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Radiah

    I picked up a copy of this book while visiting Hadrian’s Wall, having been familiar with Mr. Oliver’s work on the History of Scotland which I had picked up the last time I visited the UK. Once again, Neil Oliver’s enthusiasm and passion for his homeland’s history leaps out of the pages. He invites us on a journey from the Neolithic era up to the end of the Roman era, describing the findings both old and recently uncovered as well as explaining new and outdated theories on ancient British history I picked up a copy of this book while visiting Hadrian’s Wall, having been familiar with Mr. Oliver’s work on the History of Scotland which I had picked up the last time I visited the UK. Once again, Neil Oliver’s enthusiasm and passion for his homeland’s history leaps out of the pages. He invites us on a journey from the Neolithic era up to the end of the Roman era, describing the findings both old and recently uncovered as well as explaining new and outdated theories on ancient British history. I felt privileged to be reading the book while I was physically present at some of the sights he mentions – namely Stonehenge , the Housesteads at Hadrian’s Wall and the Lakes District. It was almost surreal to be there while reading about how significant the findings in these places are to British history. Having this book as a companion while visiting the sites felt like I was having insider information; it certainly added to my excitement – sort of like having a personal archaeologist explaining to me the significance of the finds. I absolutely devoured the book. It was wonderful to read and the way it was written is perfect for a history lover with no formal training.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Frédéric

    A very interesting history of Britain starting as far as the Big Bang to the fall of Rome. Not being accustomed to the period I learned a lot of very interesting things and the book helped me put a lot into context and perspective but... I found the lyrical style and the long digressions  of the author about his experiences/feelings/sensations  somewhat boring after a while. The same goes for the descriptions of how items were found, not that interesting in my opinion. I tend to prefer more academ A very interesting history of Britain starting as far as the Big Bang to the fall of Rome. Not being accustomed to the period I learned a lot of very interesting things and the book helped me put a lot into context and perspective but... I found the lyrical style and the long digressions  of the author about his experiences/feelings/sensations  somewhat boring after a while. The same goes for the descriptions of how items were found, not that interesting in my opinion. I tend to prefer more academically structured books and the apparently disorganized narration put me off. I didn't see the related TV documentary series but I'm pretty sure the author's style is better suited to a more visual media.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Otherwyrld

    I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the previous one I read by this author (The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places) perhaps because he is an author better suited to being read in short snippets rather than long form text. Having said that, it is still an eminently readable book for those interested in the subject. The book covers the whole history of Britain from the retreat of the ice 100,000 years ago to the end of the Roman era in relatively broad sweeps as shown by the chapters h I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the previous one I read by this author (The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places) perhaps because he is an author better suited to being read in short snippets rather than long form text. Having said that, it is still an eminently readable book for those interested in the subject. The book covers the whole history of Britain from the retreat of the ice 100,000 years ago to the end of the Roman era in relatively broad sweeps as shown by the chapters headings like "Bronze" and "Invasion". Note that it only covers the island of Great Britain, so excludes Ireland. As is usual for the author, there is a Scottish emphasis to the book which is perhaps more easily forgiven in the earlier parts where "history has trodden more lightly on the past in the North", meaning that more relics of the past have survived in the wilder places of Scotland than in the more heavily populated southern lands. This tends to go more awry later on when more of an emphasis in the south would have balanced the book better. In the end I don't think that I learned a huge amount that was totally new to me, but I would still recommend it if your knowledge of British history starts at 43 A.D. (which is true for a lot of British children, the prehistory of Britain is simply ignored in schools for the most part)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    This book is a well written narrative of the earliest period in the history of the British and Irish archipelago. Well worth a read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hanson

    Such a good read. Without any pictures of diagrams, the author brings history to live in vivid detail. In the shambles and international embarrassment that is currently Brexit Britain, this book is a nice sense of perspective. Very well written and very informative. Bravo!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marit Nathalie

    This book is even better than A history of Scotland, in terms of his infectious enthusiasm and vast knowledge of the subject shining through even brighter. This is world history viewed and analysed from a well placed rock in Scotland.- He manages to not bog the reader down in minute technical detail meant for his fellow archeologists. Instead one is invited to take part in his fascination with everything from stone tools to Roman villas and the mere fact that we're are here at all, and all the t This book is even better than A history of Scotland, in terms of his infectious enthusiasm and vast knowledge of the subject shining through even brighter. This is world history viewed and analysed from a well placed rock in Scotland.- He manages to not bog the reader down in minute technical detail meant for his fellow archeologists. Instead one is invited to take part in his fascination with everything from stone tools to Roman villas and the mere fact that we're are here at all, and all the things that had to happen exactely so, for that to be the case. Mr. Oliver livens matters up with well timed humour, and personal anectdotes help make it all seem more real; he is a very accomplished educator. He is not only an archeologist who knows his subject as such, he has the extraordinary and rare ability to pass on not only information, but also to make people interested - and sustain that interest - in the different topics he adresses in this book. ( A map of the UK would have been nice, though :) )

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Uys

    A fantastic read for any history buffs, Neil Oliver brings such a wit and charm that it gives the book the feel of chatting with one of your mates in the pub. The book covers quite an extensive period of history, at least for us humans, but Mr. Oliver nicely weaves the drier records & historical records with his adventures visiting these often remote archaeological sites. Maybe not quite Indiana Jones, Neil Oliver is still quite a gifted writer, and this book goes nicely with his next book "V A fantastic read for any history buffs, Neil Oliver brings such a wit and charm that it gives the book the feel of chatting with one of your mates in the pub. The book covers quite an extensive period of history, at least for us humans, but Mr. Oliver nicely weaves the drier records & historical records with his adventures visiting these often remote archaeological sites. Maybe not quite Indiana Jones, Neil Oliver is still quite a gifted writer, and this book goes nicely with his next book "Vikings". Together, they cover the history of much of northern Europe up till the early Renaissance. The book also comes with two sections of photos, so that the reader can see for themselves the sites and artifacts that Mr. Oliver is taking about. It amazes me what archeologists can glean form the evidence of the past, and thinking about how much out lives have changed from the semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers that wandered the planet always puts life's problems in proper perspective. Great read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike Lowndes

    Surprised by this book. Expecting another generic ancient history TV tie-in, but got a compelling narrative, well balanced and deep enough for me (plus Google) - looking at the latest research without getting too contentious. Very well written. Fades a little as you reach Roman times I guess because Neil seems to relish earlier ages: 'Copper/Bronze Age' especially well covered here, though the whole 'age' thing is of course questioned. I do feel I understand the Ancient British much better now a Surprised by this book. Expecting another generic ancient history TV tie-in, but got a compelling narrative, well balanced and deep enough for me (plus Google) - looking at the latest research without getting too contentious. Very well written. Fades a little as you reach Roman times I guess because Neil seems to relish earlier ages: 'Copper/Bronze Age' especially well covered here, though the whole 'age' thing is of course questioned. I do feel I understand the Ancient British much better now and actually want my DNA checked! I have a Norman name and a family with a matriarchal passing down of a Italian Romany past (deported to England in the 16/1700s), but likely mostly 'ancient' heritage. Neil himself found that (view spoiler)[although his mum was of long term Scottish descent, his father's genes were significantly Middle Eastern! (hide spoiler)]

  19. 5 out of 5

    Will Once

    This is a very well written history of Britain from the earliest humans to the Roman occupation. This is not a dull historical treatise. Neil Oliver is an engaging writer and writes with passion and wit. I almost dropped a star because he does have a tendency to focus on Scotland too much. Parts of the book almost read like a manifesto for the SNP or a sequel to Braveheart. It felt as if Britain was/is mainly Scotland with irritating neighbours and that the National Anthem was something by the Pr This is a very well written history of Britain from the earliest humans to the Roman occupation. This is not a dull historical treatise. Neil Oliver is an engaging writer and writes with passion and wit. I almost dropped a star because he does have a tendency to focus on Scotland too much. Parts of the book almost read like a manifesto for the SNP or a sequel to Braveheart. It felt as if Britain was/is mainly Scotland with irritating neighbours and that the National Anthem was something by the Proclaimers. But giving this book four stars would be churlish. The writing is strong enough that you don't mind Neil doing what Neil does. It's like your ancient Grandad telling you what it was like in the war. Of course you've heard it many times before but you don't mind because it's your Grandad. Highly recommended. You have my permission to fast forward over the saltire waving bits.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Archeologists are detectives par excellence. This book reveals so much that they have discovered - and are still discovering - about our earliest times, and Neil Oliver presents these discoveries to us in such a way that we feel part of the process. For me, the culmination of all this history is the clear picture it gives of how the British character has evolved, patted into its present shape by history and geography. Concurrent with that thread is the story of the independence of the Scots - e Archeologists are detectives par excellence. This book reveals so much that they have discovered - and are still discovering - about our earliest times, and Neil Oliver presents these discoveries to us in such a way that we feel part of the process. For me, the culmination of all this history is the clear picture it gives of how the British character has evolved, patted into its present shape by history and geography. Concurrent with that thread is the story of the independence of the Scots - even the mighty Roman Empire at the peak of its power could only contain them with bribes, never with military force! Scottish independence at work even then! This book has been a real pleasure.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Monckton

    Although the book is on a subject I am fascinated in, and is well written, I found myself longing to finish it. The problem was, I just couldn’t read more than 10 or so pages at a time. The book accompanies a TV series, and it unfortunately shows. The chapters are too long, and the abrupt changes of scene without so much as a lines gap are, at times confusing and or irritating. There is also far too much nonsense about the special treatment he gets (typical stuff for a TV format). In short, lots Although the book is on a subject I am fascinated in, and is well written, I found myself longing to finish it. The problem was, I just couldn’t read more than 10 or so pages at a time. The book accompanies a TV series, and it unfortunately shows. The chapters are too long, and the abrupt changes of scene without so much as a lines gap are, at times confusing and or irritating. There is also far too much nonsense about the special treatment he gets (typical stuff for a TV format). In short, lots of good information, but it left me wanting the same book written by a real archaeologist/historian.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Saw this in Waterstone's in Oxford, and didn't buy it then (a mistake, since it's not available yet in bookstores here, nor on Kindle!). I recognized the horse from our visits in and around the country surrounding Stonehenge and Avebury, when we sought out Uffington to get a glimpse of the chalk horse. I have developed an interest in pre-Roman and Roman Britain, which this book covers. Luckily, UChicago library had a copy, and I'm enjoying Mr. Oliver's very readable (if a little fanciful) accoun Saw this in Waterstone's in Oxford, and didn't buy it then (a mistake, since it's not available yet in bookstores here, nor on Kindle!). I recognized the horse from our visits in and around the country surrounding Stonehenge and Avebury, when we sought out Uffington to get a glimpse of the chalk horse. I have developed an interest in pre-Roman and Roman Britain, which this book covers. Luckily, UChicago library had a copy, and I'm enjoying Mr. Oliver's very readable (if a little fanciful) accounts. Definitely learned about many more archaeological sites of which I was completely unaware. May have to make another trip to the UK to do an Ancient Britain tour someday!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian Turner

    As a tour of ancient sites it makes for interesting reading, but some of Oliver's commentary is quite bizarre. He also struggles to bring everything together into an actual narrative, offering no explanation of how iron reached Britain, and almost no mention of the Indo-European peoples. Altogether, somewhat disappointing - as a first taster of ancient archaeology I found it interesting, but there are almost certainly much better books out there.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Martina

    After getting about 1/3rd through the book I realized it was an adaptation of a BBC documentary series of the same title and containing the exact same information, so I stopped reading and just watched the series.... But honestly I don't feel too guilty about it, because it was actually much more informative in documentary format, because they (obviously) had more visuals of the artifacts and locations and it was more engaging to have a person speaking to you. (loooooooved Neil Oliver's Scottish After getting about 1/3rd through the book I realized it was an adaptation of a BBC documentary series of the same title and containing the exact same information, so I stopped reading and just watched the series.... But honestly I don't feel too guilty about it, because it was actually much more informative in documentary format, because they (obviously) had more visuals of the artifacts and locations and it was more engaging to have a person speaking to you. (loooooooved Neil Oliver's Scottish accent ^_^) Maybe that says something about my learning styles lol This was a great "read"! It wasn't exactly what I expected, but it was still very informative and I learned a lot. Like I said, it brought the reader closer to Neolithic people, even though they lived 5000 to 10000 years ago, which I think says a lot about the writer's talent.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    General Overview An exceptional delve into the history of the Isles of Britiannia. This is the 2nd of Neil Oliver's book I've read, the 1st being his book on Vikings. Content This was a great overview for the casual historian/history enthuiast. It covers a variety of topics from geology, archeology, socialogy, etc. It never gets to overwhelming in detail, and its written in such a way that even I can understand. Structure The book was linked to the TV series of the same name I believe. I never got t General Overview An exceptional delve into the history of the Isles of Britiannia. This is the 2nd of Neil Oliver's book I've read, the 1st being his book on Vikings. Content This was a great overview for the casual historian/history enthuiast. It covers a variety of topics from geology, archeology, socialogy, etc. It never gets to overwhelming in detail, and its written in such a way that even I can understand. Structure The book was linked to the TV series of the same name I believe. I never got to watch it, but it is mentioned on occasion in the book. It is laid out in a chronological fashion from Prehistory to Roman, and is informative whilst being readable. I learnt a good bit from this book. Final Thoughts It was a fun read. Would recommend.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ana TM

    I love Ancient history so, when I read the title of this book, I immediately bought it. Overall, I found it a very interesting read, with a lot of data and anecdotes to fill the pages. However, the structure was confusing for me. The book is divided in veeeery looooong chapters, each corresponding to an era, without more subheadings, so, once you have read a lot in a row, the facts start to mix in your head and it gets confusing. I think it could benefit from shorter sections, because the facts I love Ancient history so, when I read the title of this book, I immediately bought it. Overall, I found it a very interesting read, with a lot of data and anecdotes to fill the pages. However, the structure was confusing for me. The book is divided in veeeery looooong chapters, each corresponding to an era, without more subheadings, so, once you have read a lot in a row, the facts start to mix in your head and it gets confusing. I think it could benefit from shorter sections, because the facts seem to be right, just not clearly presented.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Richard Howard

    This is a truly marvellous book, detailing the history of the people of Britain up until the arrival of the Romans. Filled with information, it is also filled with the author's musings, which makes the material more immediate and interesting. I travel around Britain a lot and have visited many of the sites the author mentions but he has added many more to my check-ins, for which I am very grateful. Pertinent to the present are his observations that this island has been home to wave after wave of This is a truly marvellous book, detailing the history of the people of Britain up until the arrival of the Romans. Filled with information, it is also filled with the author's musings, which makes the material more immediate and interesting. I travel around Britain a lot and have visited many of the sites the author mentions but he has added many more to my check-ins, for which I am very grateful. Pertinent to the present are his observations that this island has been home to wave after wave of different people's, something that shames the present tide of insularity sweeping over it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Will Pryer

    Oliver has managed to condense thousands of years of ancient British history into a concise, informative and fascinating work. I feel like I've learnt about an incredible amount of history in a mere 400 pages. I did find the prose a bit cumbersome at times and expressions were often repeated, such as "I challenge anyone to hold (artifact) and not feel (a profound emotion)." Still thoroughly enjoyed it though.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Another interesting and enjoyable read from Neil Oliver (and No, I'm not just saying that because he's a Scot). Neil has a style that means history can be visualized by the reader and it can draw you in. I do have a love of history, but some historians write in a dry and boring way, but not this one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Janet Gore

    found this book interesting and well written. as a person with a keen interest in history, I found that this book kept my interest throughout, the facts and history which he wrote about were well researched and as accurate as he could be. I personally would reread this book and found points of interests what for me are worth looking more into. 9 out of 10

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