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The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today Hardcover – 3 Jun 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (3 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142055
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 289,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Francis Pryor was born in London in 1945. He read archaeology and anthropology at Trinity College, Cambridge where eventually he took a PhD. After Cambridge he emigrated to Toronto where he joined the staff of the Royal Ontario Museum. Using the Museum as a base, he began a series of major excavations (1971-78) in England, at Fengate, on the outskirts of Peterborough. Here he revealed an extensive Bronze Age field system, plus Neolithic and Iron Age settlements. After Fengate he turned his attention north of Peterborough, to the Welland Valley, where he excavated two large sites, at Maxey (1979-81) and Etton (1982-87). Etton was a superbly preserved earlier Neolithic (3500 BC) causewayed enclosure, an early type of ceremonial centre. In 1982 he also began survey work in the nearby Fens and soon discovered the timbers of a Late Bronze Age (1300-900 BC) timber causeway and religious complex at Flag Fen, just east of Peterborough. This remarkable site was opened to the public in 1987. Today it has become one of the best known Bronze Age sites in Europe and a principal visitor attraction in the region. He was awarded an MBE 'for services to tourism' in 1999. Fengate was published in four volumes in the 1970s and '80s and major English Heritage monographs on Maxey, Etton and Flag Fen appeared in 1986, 1998 and 2001. His popular account of this remarkable site, Flag Fen: life and death of a prehistoric landscape (Tempus Books, Stroud), was revised for a second edition in 2005. His book on prehistoric farming, Farmers in Prehistoric Britain (also for Tempus) is also in its second edition (2006).
Since 1998 he has devoted himself to writing popular books on archaeology, including Seahenge (HarperCollins 2001), an account of the discovery of a Bronze Age timber circle on the Norfolk coast; Britain BC (HarperCollins 2003), the story of British prehistory before the Romans and Britain AD (HarperCollins 2004), a book about new finds from Dark Age Britain. The third of this series, Britain in the Middle Ages, is on the archaeology of the medieval period and was published in June 2006 by HarperCollins (in paperback, June 2007). His largest book, The Making of the British Landscape was published in June 2010 and is now in paperback. His latest book, The Birth of Modern Britain (HarperCollins) was published in February 2011. He was President of the Council for British Archaeology from 1998-2005 and has written and presented series for Channel 4 on Britain BC, Britain AD and The Real Dad's Army, a review of archaeological remains surviving from 1940. He is also a regular contributor to, and member of, that channel's long-running series, Time Team. Presently he is working on a book for Penguin Press about domestic life in ancient Britain. Recently he has turned his attention to radio and has presented half-hour programmes for Radio 4 on the medieval Welsh town of Trellech (2006) and Stonehenge (Secrets of Stonehenge) (2007); Britain's Lost Atlantis, an account of the archaeology beneath the North Sea (2009)
Although a freelance author and broadcaster, he retains close links with academia and is currently visiting Professor in Archaeology at the University of Leicester.
In 'In the Long Run' he now regularly blogs on the trials and tribulations of writing, broadcasting, sheep farming, gardening and archaeology.

Product Description


Pryor is that rare combination of a first-rate working archaeologist and a good writer, with the priceless ability of being able to explain complex ideas clearly. This is popular archaeology at its best. (Times Higher Educational Supplement )

The British landscape is as rich a source of inspiration as ever and this book makes an excellent companion guide. (Margaret Drabble Telegraph )

Generously informative and challenging...compelling (Jonathan Keates Sunday Telegraph )

Pryor feels the land rather than simply knowing it. (Kathryn Hughes Guardian )

About the Author

Former president of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr FRANCIS PRYOR has spent thirty years studying the prehistory of the Fens. He has excavated sites as diverse as Bronze Age farms, field systems and entire Iron Age villages. He appears frequently on TV's Time Team and is the author of Seahenge, as well as Britain BC and Britain AD, both of which he adapted and presented as Channel 4 series.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 100 REVIEWER on 4 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Doctor Pryor is probably best known for his books on archaeology and his latest one attempts to bring a lot of such knowedge up to date. Indeed this is an admitted "update" on Hoskins' classic "Making of the English Landscape" and so includes much information on Wales and Scotland. Having said that though the vast bulk of the examples used are still English, perhaps because that is where the best examples of man's effect on the landscape exist.

As I say the book is bang up to date including discourses on such disparate subjects as modern planning law, erosion and climate change, all of which obviously have a bearing on where the landscape is changing now and likely to in the future.

All in all if you are at all interested in how the British landscape got to be how it is and how it may change this is a book you will enjoy. It is an "easy" read, which is a compliment as the author's obvious knowledge is worn lightly. There are loads of illustrations and maps, some of which might have benefitted from being larger and more detailed it has to be said, but one of the encouragements is to look at the OS maps of whichever area you are interested in and use this book as a guide to how the map looks as it does. This last point is important as the author makes no claims that this is a definitive guide and indeed offers two pages of more detailed "books to take in the car", but as a primer on the subject this book takes some beating.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Richard H on 15 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
That Francis Pryor cares deeply about the British Landscape and its History isn't the question, but that this book could have been edited to a tighter, more interesting narrative is. The text is often repetitive, covering the same point twice in as many pages, or splitting it between two separate sections (Leisure by rail and by road). It could be better organized, there is a wealth of excellent material covered, but some of the context shifts are quite annoying. At the end of the day though, Mr Pryor is extremely good when he is on song, whether about matters about which he is a world-renowned expert (Prehistory, or East Anglia), or on other that he clearly has at his heart (the environment). There his inclination to ramble is a pleasure, but in areas where his involvement is less intimate, he seems to be waffling at times and to have skimped on the full story at others. I'd have been happier for a book two thirds the length, covering a lesser span and with perhaps a bit less of the polemic. I agree with his view of the need to care for the landscape, both practically and emotionally, but having it drilled into my skull by a 850 page tome gets a little old after a while. A second edition of Britain BC please Mr Pryor!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Crossland on 5 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I came to this book having enjoyed its predecessor, the Making of the English Landscape by W.G.Hoskins and I realised how far we had advanced since 1955 when Hoskins published his book. Francis Pryor has produced a really scholarly work - plenty of references and acknowledgement that he cannot cover such a range of history under his own steam alone - but also something that someone who is not an expert can throughly enjoy. I suppose that, as an archaeologist myself, I am biassed in his favour from the outset. And yet I was enthralled by the scale of the venture and the fact that he maintained the pace and clarity throughout - no mean achievement over 800 pages. The illustrations were excellent and very well captioned and he was not afraid to include personal insights. So often academic books become stilted and impersonal but Francis Pryor avoids this. He manages to maintain an enthusiasm for his subject - which is a huge one - right the way through. There is, as has been pointed out in an earlier review, the odd error. But even Homer nods!
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
To write a single volume history of the British countryside, from pre-history to the present day, is an ambitious task, some would say an over ambitious task. Francis Pryor, who is probably best known for his books on prehistory and his appearances on Time Team, approaches this book with clear passion.

Pryor has organised the book chronologically, an historians approach, rather than on a regional or "habitat" basis. So, while the book is well supplied with sub-headings, if you wish to follow the fortunes of (for example) woodlands you need to read most of the book. Equally, reading the history of the Midlands or West Country may require frequent trips to Scotland and Northumbria.

The book itself has a number of central ideas - that things happened sooner than popular myth would have us believe, that revolutions are rare, that much change was important symbolically as well as economically or socially and that we need to pay close attention to the actual evidence to be able to "read" the country side.

The roots of the British countryside are very old, reaching back into the early Stone Age, and it is in these sections of the book that Pryor is in his element. As the book moves into more modern times and especially in the sections on post-war Britain the book begins to run out of steam. At one point the author admits that he will not attempt to summarize the development of town and country planning for fear of ridicule. While this is a sensible idea, it does show that the finer nuances of cause and effect in the modern countryside are not his real area of expertise. However, I do not think that the final sections are poor; they just lack the sparkle of the earlier chapters.
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