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Pagan Britain

Pagan Britain [Kindle Edition]

Ronald Hutton
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"Hutton writes as an even-handed observer of his own discipline, and it is here that most of the solid evidence of ritual behaviour can be found."--Graham Robb, "The Guardian"--Graham Robb"The Guardian" (01/25/2014)

Product Description

Britain's pagan past, with its mysterious monuments, atmospheric sites, enigmatic artifacts, bloodthirsty legends, and cryptic inscriptions, is both enthralling and perplexing to a resident of the twenty-first century. In this ambitious and thoroughly up-to-date book, Ronald Hutton reveals the long development, rapid suppression, and enduring cultural significance of paganism, from the Paleolithic Era to the coming of Christianity. He draws on an array of recently discovered evidence and shows how new findings have radically transformed understandings of belief and ritual in Britain before the arrival of organized religion.


Setting forth a chronological narrative, Hutton along the way makes side visits to explore specific locations of ancient pagan activity. He includes the well-known sacred sites—Stonehenge, Avebury, Seahenge, Maiden Castle, Anglesey—as well as more obscure locations across the mainland and coastal islands. In tireless pursuit of the elusive “why” of pagan behavior, Hutton astonishes with the breadth of his understanding of Britain’s deep past and inspires with the originality of his insights.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3630 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (25 Dec 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #185,027 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Greywolf TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In 1991, Ronald Hutton published 'The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles,' at the time a unique, one-volume survey of its subject that quickly, and rightly, attained classic status, being quoted in almost every subsequent work on British prehistory. This new book is designed to supersede it, reassessing its contents and conclusions, expanding on it and adding a huge amount of new information that has come to light over the last two decades.
First impressions are of an attractive, well-produced book, containing many more illustrations than its predecessor, though still in monochrome. The illustrations are well-chosen, including many of the usual suspects - the 'Sorcerer of Trois Frères,' the 'Venus of Willendorf,' and so on - but going well beyond them. For example, a group headed 'Less familiar Palaeolithic images' includes human figurines that were found alongside the much better known 'Venuses' on which whole theories of prehistoric belief have been built. These images and their accompanying text provide one example of a process Hutton follows throughout the book, returning to original excavation reports and re-examining, often at first-hand, the objects described so as to place them in their proper context. He has visited or re-visited many sites where objects were found, often in company with archaeological specialists. This meticulous research is filtered through the author's broad areas of personal interest, including ancient and modern paganisms and shamanism. These interests, however, are never allowed to overwhelm the evidence.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read 20 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I must admit I purchased the book because the author, Professor Ronald Hutton was a keynote speaker at a Celtic Conference that my University held before Christmas. But delving further into the book I have found it to be a great read full to the brim with interesting details about Pagan Britain. Also it happens to be useful for dissertation next year with a chapter about Pagan deities and Roman Britain.

I would highly recommend it for fans of his work and those who find the subject fascinating, a very good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I didn't know that! 26 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Educational and entertaining history of prehistoric Britain and Europe from a prospective I had not been exposed to before. Makes me want to visit some of the sites discussed and consider them from a better-informed perspective.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 15 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Arrived well on time and well packaged, xmas present for the other half. He's really enjoying and as a lot of the areas mentioned are near to us, he intends going on lots of trips to visit the sites.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional book 23 Jan 2014
By Comment Man - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ronald Hutton's Pagan Britain is a fascinating and comprehensive survey of the archaeological and historical evidence for British paganism. His erudition is amazing. Hutton considers literally hundreds of articles, books, objects and sites in his quest to provide a complete review of what is known about British pagan beliefs. He also traces how British paganism has been interpreted from Victorian times to the present day. The historiography often fascinated me as much as the discussions of henges and burial mounds. He analyzes how scientists and humanists approach the same material in markedly different fashions. Thus, the book is ultimately a meditation on how (in his words) "truth can be established in scholarship...especially in the study of the remote past."

I can best give you an idea of his comprehensive approach by discussing his chapters on Mesolithic and Neolithic Britain. He discusses famous sites, such as Stonehenge, and the history of both the research at the site and theories about the site. He discusses typical artifacts from the period, and how they have been used to contemporary scholars to try to understand the past. Scholars have used many approaches to understand this material and Hutton never uses dismissive language to discuss any of them. He has a fascinating discussion on how contemporary academicians and "alternative" archaeologists have approached the same material. He traces the intellectual history of both and shows how what was yesterday's "alternative" explanation sometimes becomes today's orthodoxy. Again and again, Hutton emphasizes how little we actually know about the preliterate past and how many explanations can be attached to the same artifacts. Archaeology of religion, he writes, can "recover the material remains of ritual action...but not (usually) the ideas which inspired them."

Little seems to escape his purview as he discusses paganism through the Iron Age, Roman Britain and the conversion of Britain to Christianity. He also has a comprehensive discussion of possible survivals of paganism in Christian period. Contemporary Pagans may be disappointed that he finds relatively little evidence for paganism surviving into the medieval age. In these chapters again he emphasizes what is actually concretely known and how this evidence is used. Thus, in discussing the possibility of human sacrifices, he devotes much time to detailing graves, burial practices and human skeletal remains found in unusual locations. Decapitated skeletons have been found and Hutton discusses alternative explanations for this. Roman sources claiming the British practiced human sacrifice are carefully deconstructed. Hutton also discusses various contemporary theories about human sacrifice. Hutton's conclusion here--as it is again and again in this book--is that the evidence supports a variety of possible explanation for archaeological remains and that human sacrifice in prehistoric Britain remains and will probably remain unprovable.

He also discusses the intellectual history of modern interpretations of the British pagan past. Thus, he has an illuminating discussion on the "Goddess" theory which so riveted many scholars earlier in the 20th century. He shows how the needs and thought patterns of the present have often skewed the interpretations of the past.

Hutton is a very fine writer. His prose is always clear and often beautiful. I imagined once or twice that a reincarnation of Shakespeare might shamelessly lift from Hutton's prose the way the actual bard did from Holinshed, though I suppose today creative plagiarism of that nature is out of style. The major difficulties reading the book result from the sheer amount of information presented. This is a dense and fascinating book. The book is illustrated with drawings and black and white photographs. Embedded in the text, they illuminate the argument of the book but do not particularly add to its beauty.

I think anyone interested in history, archaeology, pagan religions or Britain would find this book well worth the time. Hutton is not sensational the way some books and TV shows about this material have been but his solid scholarship is much more illuminating.

I do not know how a contemporary Pagan would react to this book; but it seems to me Hutton, a genial and intelligent man, is totally and completely respectful of contemporary Pagan spirituality and that a contemporary Pagan might very well want this book in his library.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very detailed read. 17 Feb 2014
By John Richard Lovell - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Once again Hutton provides a meticulously written work that is long on scholarly research and short on the fuzziness and conjecture that is seen in a lot of work on this subject. 'Pagan Britain ' covers the length and breadth of the island with frequent references to Ireland as well. Although Hutton's work is (at times) heavy going, this is really to be expected when the material is covered in such exhaustive depth, the information contained in this book can be used again and again for academic research ( which is my purpose) or for simply allowing oneself to take a snapshot look back into a much maligned period in history. Hutton doesn't advocate any specific position in this book, but he does allow room for new scholarly works that could be viewed as controversial. A very interesting book and an important book for any seerious book collector.
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring 16 April 2014
By clean - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Extremely disappointing book. The author has totally no ability to interest the reader. He quotes constantly, never offering his own interpretation of the facts. I did not purchase this book to find pagan Britain begins with Cro Mags. This is pagan? I skipped to the section on the Romans and he couldn't kindle any interest. Absolutely no life in this ghastly book. It doesn't even deserve one star. I want my money back.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 14 Mar 2014
By MaryAgnes D. Costello - Published on
An excellent book on early Britain. There is a lot we don't know and Prof. Hutton is upfront about admitting that. Speculation is minimal and facts thick on the ground.
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-covered and well-presented overview 12 Mar 2014
By Priscilla Manwaring - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The value of this book is its overview of the current state of scholarship together wiith the evidence for and against different interpretations. I have read numerous books on this area and this book accords well with the latest findings.
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