Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Train Reading - Norman Davies The Isles: a history 1

I began this book some time ago and was enjoying it. However, it's a very long book (over a thousand pages), so I got sidetracked. Now, feeling the need for a break from current events as well as Australian history, I have picked it up again.

I am not going to write a long post tonight, just a few introductory words.

While the book has a few annoying features, I will write of these a little later, it is to this point a very good read.

The book covers the long history of the Islands now occupied by the UK and Ireland. One of its strengths is that it addresses the whole history of the Isles, including that long period before the emergence of England as the dominant (and dominating) Kingdom.

Today in talking about the English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh (or the British for that matter) we are using labels. These national groups did not just emerge, nor were existing cultural, linguistic and political structures pre-ordained.

The Isles were subject to wave after wave of invasion. Then there were the constant internal wars. I think that Davies does a pretty good job in disentangling all this, in showing us how our own mental structures derived from that past can interfere with understanding.

The book links to a number of the themes that I have been pursuing from time to time on this blog, so you can expect some more posts!

Other posts in this series:


Owen Jacobson said...

I have just finished The Isles. I bought it some years ago but have only had time to read it since I retired a few months ago. I am not an academic nor an historian and I live at the other end of the world. The book has a surprising number of minor errors which demonstrate it wasn't probably proof read properly, but it was a remarkable piece of work. I read it in a few sittings. I thought it outstanding. Thank you Prof Davies

Jim Belshaw said...

I'm glad you liked it, Owen.There are some errors, but it's still pretty good!