I enjoy archaeology and history both as books and on tv and I think that we have been lucky with our tv programmes on both in the last few decades. Programmes like Time Team and Meet the Ancestors have made archaeology in particular accessible and interesting and presenters like Julian Richards, Alice Roberts and Janina Ramirez have helped to make sure that these documentaries are both informative and entertaining. I’m not ashamed to say that on a Friday or Saturday night I’d rather settle down to watch a BBC4 documentary on mediaeval history than head off to the pub and our holidays wouldn’t be complete without a trip to see a castle or prehistoric monument. If there are no trips to English Heritage sites planned, reading about the places which are steeped in history is a good substitute (and doubly so if the weather forecast is rainy). Since I do like to read the book in the voice of the author (if I know what it sounds like), Neil Oliver’s is one of my top voices in history: which made this book darn near perfect for me.
I really appreciated the way this book worked – a hundred pieces on places which have played a part in the history of the islands that make up the British Isles, geographically, historically, socially and politically set out in chronological order. So, although the stories, which vary in length, move to all the corners of the islands – from north to south, east to west and back again – they move on through time from prehistory to much more recent times. Because Oliver is not afraid to let his opinions show he also talks, in a fairly impassioned way about how he hopes our future will be, again both socially, historically and politically. I enjoyed reading about places I have visited – on Orkney, at Stonehenge (where I am old enough to have been able to actually walk up to the stones), Avebury and Ironbridge among others – and I am also adding to the list of places I really need to go. There are quite a lot on the list but when I do get to, say, Creswell Crags, I shall have my own personal tour guide (in Neil Oliver’s voice) in my head.