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The Tribes of Britain [Paperback]

David Miles
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

3 Aug 2006
The diverse peoples of Britain and Ireland are revealed not only by physical characteristics but also through structures and settlements, place names and dialects. Using the latest genetic and archaeological research, the author shows how different peoples traded, settled and conquered, establishing the 'tribal' and regional roots still apparent today. Its vast scope considers the impact of prehistoric peoples and Celtic tribes, Romans and Vikings, Saxons and Normans, Jews and Huguenots, as well as the increasing population movements of the last century.

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The Tribes of Britain + The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story + Blood of the Isles
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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (3 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753817993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753817995
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


[Miles] draws admirably on history, demography, sociology, biology, and even climatology in this wide-ranging cornucopia. (THE TIMES (2/9/06))

Coming at a time of surely historical levels of immigration, his hugely detailed survey... provides a vital background to any discussion of why Britain is the way it is. It will certainly warm the hearts of increasingly beleaguered multiculturists. (SUNDAY TIMES (3/9/06))

A big, eccentric tract written with a Victorian zeal to educate and improve the reader... [a] magisterial work. (TELEGRAPH (26/8/06))

Book Description

Who are we? The story of the peoples of Britain and Ireland, drawing on new genetic discoveries, language, buildings and landscape.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stick to archeology 11 Jun 2012
I liked this book but it is very clear that it is written by an archeologist who wanders beyond his speciality into recorded history. On the well-known dispute about the proportion of Anglo-Saxons in the English population, all I can say is that anyone who thinks they were a minority needs a new pair of glasses, or has never been to Wales, Cornwall or Scotland. I cover the same ground in my own book, "History of the Britisih Isles to 1714 AD" and I come down firmly in the camp of the Anglo-Saxons. Miles sits on the fence.

When dealing with the period immediately before the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, Miles refers to the previous monarch as Edward II (died 1327) instead of Edward III (died 1377). Then he talks about a tax being imposed on foreigners by Richard II in 1440 (Richard II died in 1399). At a later stage he talks about the control of the tobacco trade by the monarchy contributing to the revolution of 1760 - what revolution? Does he mean 1642, or even 1775? There was no revolution of any kind in 1760. At the Battle of Waterloo, he says the British deployed 21,000 infantry where the size of the army (including cavalry) was actually 67,000 men. On the same page he refers to Abraham Crowley's steel works - what? Does he mean Abraham Darby's cast iron works? There is no Abraham Crowley in Wikipedia. He then refers to the completion of the canals between the Severn and the Mersey in 1727, when in fact one link in this, the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, was not completed until 1772. Later he refers to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1838 (it was passed in 1835 - he gets the date right on the next page). You get the idea.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book about the British People 31 Mar 2007
When I asked for this book for Christmas from my wife, I had been under the impression it dealt with the genetics of the British people. The book does do this, but it is hardly the primary focus. I quickly was over any disappointment as the book captured my attention through sharp, crisp writing, a plethora of engaging facts, and seamless storytelling.

The book deals with the subject of just who the British people are and how they came to be. Woven into the tapestry of the tale are the histories of the pre-historic people of Britain, of the Celts and Picts, the Britons, the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and every people and culture who have contributed to the bloodlines of the British people.

This is not a history of the Kings and Queens of England, or the hundreds of battles fought, or of the Empire. It is truly a history and an examination of the people of the British Isles.

One quickly comes to understand that it is impossible to define virtually anyone in Britain as simply "English" or "Ango-Saxon" or "Irish" - that the vast internal and external migrations and transpositions of people, language and culture that have occured over the millenia serve to blur the lines that supposedly differentiate the various home nations in terms of ancestry.

So many notable books concentrate solely on the English or on the Scots or only on the Irish, and many books that focus on Britain give only passing mention to the home nations other than England and her people. The Tribes of Britain is an excellent bit of writing about the British people as a whole and would be of interest to students of history and to the many people with any sort of British ancestry.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Cicero
Verified Purchase
If you are thinking of buying this book, I would certainly recommend it as great value for money. It is lucid and packed with interesting facts about every era of British history, so you are bound to have your mind expanded in some way.

The author was Chief Archaeologist of English Heritage and brings a huge amount of personal knowledge and experience to the subject - he seems to have done one or other excavation relevant to practically every subject he talks about, and to have spent time all over the British Isles.

The basic idea of the book is to start at the beginning and talk about the successive waves of people who have come to the British Isles - from the pre-H. sapiens Boxgrove man of 500,000 years ago, via the first modern humans arriving after the last glacial maximum, the Celts, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, the Normans, the Huguenots, the East European Jews, the West Indians who came on the Windrush in 1948, and the Ugandan Asians, up to the Somalis arriving as we speak.

The trouble is that the author continually loses focus and the book degenerates into a (very readable and original) social history of Britain. At one point, after reading several pages on the Vikings in Iceland, I thought "hang on, what has this got to do with the matter in hand?" The answer is, not a lot; the author just got carried away retailing his knowledge of the Viking migrations - but it was interesting all the same.

As far as the book's ostensible purpose is concerned - i.e. the ethnic make-up of the British population and how it got to be that way - it all ends up being rather vague.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting!
good book, good service though not quite what I expected - thought it was about the individual tribes of ancient Britain, the Icene etc...
Published 3 months ago by goddess
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going.
I was NOT too impressed with this tome. Far too much in the way of nitty-gritty, with lots of (in my opinion) unnecessary detail. Read more
Published 3 months ago by keith helsdown
1.0 out of 5 stars Full of basic errors, it's a disgrace.
Has this book been edited? Henry VIII did not accede to the throne in 1502, Richard II was not born in 1377, nor was he king in the mid-fifteenth century. Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2010 by Mrs. S. V. Read
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This book helped me discover and understand the history of Britain and of the different people that throughout history have made of this island their home. Read more
Published on 29 Jan 2010 by Miquel
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable but with no real conclusions
So, what did I like about this book?
It was very readable - almost un-put-down-able. It went from era to era seamlessly and I was impressed with the author's grasp of the... Read more
Published on 12 Dec 2009 by uncle barbar
3.0 out of 5 stars The disappearing people..
I just started reading this today, after receiving it as a X-MAS gift and naturally immersed myself in the chapters concerning the dark ages, which facinate me the most. Read more
Published on 26 Dec 2008 by Medieval Lady
4.0 out of 5 stars So you think you know your origins?
This is a comprehensive study of British history from the perspective of its "tribes". The author calls upon a wide range of sources and the latest archaeological techniques,... Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2008 by Geoff Buck
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