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Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion [Paperback]

Andy Worthington
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 14.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

21 Jun 2004
This innovative social history looks in detail at how the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge have brought together different aspects of British counter-culture to make the monument a ‘living temple’ and an icon of alternative Britain. The history of the celebrants and counter-cultural leaders is interwoven with the viewpoints of the land-owners, custodians and archaeologists who have generally attempted to impose order on the shifting patterns of these modern-day mythologies.

The story of the Stonehenge summer solstice celebrations begins with the Druid revival of the 18th century and the earliest public gatherings of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the social upheavals of the 1960s and early 70s, these trailblazers were superseded by the Stonehenge Free Festival. This evolved from a small gathering to an anarchic free state the size of a small city, before its brutal suppression at the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985.

In the aftermath of the Beanfield, the author examines how the political and spiritual aspirations of the free festivals evolved into both the rave scene and the road protest movement, and how the prevailing trends in the counter-culture provided a fertile breeding ground for the development of new Druid groups, the growth of paganism in general, and the adoption of other sacred sites, in particular Stonehenge’s gargantuan neighbour at Avebury.

The account is brought up to date with the reopening of Stonehenge on the summer solstice in 2000, the unprecedented crowds drawn by the new access arrangements, and the latest source of conflict, centred on a bitterly-contested road improvement scheme.

Product details

  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Alternative Albion (21 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1872883761
  • ISBN-13: 978-1872883762
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 678,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'It's by far the best bit of modern British social history I've seen.' -- SchNEWS

'This is a fine book in every way, well written, carefully researched and with a remarkable story to tell' -- John Michell, Fortean Times

'This is a well-written and well-researched study of a fascinating subject and is highly recommended' -- Mike Howard, The Cauldron

'[A] readable and well-researched cultural history.' -- Antiquity

'an essential read for anyone who wants a better understanding of how we got where we are' -- Andy Anderson, White Dragon

'likely to remain the definitive work on the subject, because of the depth of coverage and range of viewpoints' -- Ronald Hutton, author of 'The Triumph of the Moon'

'wonderful and often funny... the oddest tale ever told about the most famous ancient place of them all' -- Christopher Chippindale, author of 'Stonehenge Complete'

... an honest, fastidious and heartfelt contribution... pointing towards a freer, glorious Albion. -- Paul Screeton 'Folklore Frontiers'

This is a well-written and well-researched study of a fascinating subject and is highly recommended. -- Mike Howard 'The Cauldron'

[This book is] ... the most complete, well-illustrated analysis of Stonehenge's mysterious world of Druids, travellers, pagans and party-goers... -- Mike Pitts 'History Today'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A remarkable cultural history of Stonehenge!

This book is unique because it book tells an amazing story of the relatively recent history of Stonehenge. In particular, it focuses on the relationship between people and Stonehenge in the 20th century. This is a story of Druids, Land-owners, Free-festivals, Neo-pagans, new-age travellers, political activists, English Heritage, the British Government and tourists. Andy Worthington has done a remarkable job of weaving together the various cultural histories. He shows fairness and respect towards all parties (especially important since there are many countercultures explored in this book).

Andy Worthington's book opens many new debates and addresses a range of popular myths/misunderstandings regarding Stonehenge's recent history. Hopefully this book will inspire further cultural histories and memoirs about the relationship between people and Stonehenge. Absolutely brilliant book and it doesn't require any previous knowledge of the subject area! I'm lending it to all my friends now - so far those who have read it have found it a brisk and engaging read!
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant 19 Jun 2004
I didn't put this book down after reading it. It doesn't deal too much with the ancient history of Stonehenge, which we're unlikely ever to figure out, but instead focuses on Stonehenge and it's counter-cultural importance in the last 100 years - and more importantly, it's place in the early 80s when the Thatcher government sent in police to brutally bring to an end the Stonehenge Free Festival at the Battle of the Beanfield, where women and children were assaulted by over zealous police.
It moves on to the rave scene and road protest movement, and analyses the links between all these anti-authoritarian movements all link back to Stonehenge.
Whether you have interest in social justice, anarchy or activism or are looking at Stonehenge from a Pagan perspective, I'd highly recommend this book.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stonehenge 4 Sep 2004
By A Customer
A wonderful book, a good insight for Druidry too, however I would ignore the political statement on the previous review, Casp certainly needs to re-educate himself..
This is a marvellous book. Very well done.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disappointing 23 Mar 2006
By A Customer
If you are new to this subject, or you only want to buy one book on it, don’t buy this one. It would be OK as an addition to your collection on history/archaeology though.
This area is also an area fraught with danger – if you really love the area you have to be careful to filter out the dingly dangly brigade who don’t really love the subject, but are more interested in putting upon it their own needs and fantasies. It is a bit insulting to the subject really, doing this instead of learning about it – and really learning about it is so rewarding. Give it a go!
Neolithic culture really is an immensely enjoyable subject, you’ll get so much out of it – if you haven’t thought about this period or subject as your area before, do give it a go. Work, farming, politics, food, religion, landscape, culture and art in these areas is so fascinating – give the subject a go – you may well be hooked!!
If you are new to the subject or you just want one book on the subject, Aubrey Burl or Francis Pryor would be a better starting point. Happy reading and get out into that landscape! (Take your waterproofs though!)
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