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Time's Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination [Hardcover]

Richard Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Nov 2012

History thrives on stories. Time's Anvil explores archaeology's influence on what such stories say, how they are told, who tells them and how we listen.

In a dazzlingly wide-ranging exploration, Richard Morris casts fresh light on three quarters of a million years of history in the place we now think of as England. Drawing upon genres that are usually pursued in isolation - such as biography, poetry, or physics - he finds potent links between things we might imagine to be unrelated. His subjects range from humanity's roots to the destruction of the wildwood, from the first farmers to industrialization, and from Tudor drama to twentieth-century conflict. Each topic sits at a different point along the continuum between epoch and the fleeting moment.

In part, this is a history of archaeology; in part, too, it is a personal account of the author's history in archaeology. But mainly it is about how the past is read, and about what we bring to the reading as well as what we find. The result is a book that defies categorization, but one which will by turns surprise, enthral and provoke anyone who cares for England, who we are and where we have come from.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 1st Edition edition (22 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297867830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297867838
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 422,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This is a remarkable, and in many respects a very courageous book - he puts himself on the line" (Francis Pryor THE TIMES 2012-10-27)

Combining literature and myth with science, it explores how the past is read and the relevance and role of archaeology while challenging assumptions about our history. (CHOICE 2012-12-01)

This fascinating book - a combination of the author's autobiography and a biography of the science of archaeology in England since the 17th century - suggests that some historical truths are found and proved, rather than created, by archaeology (Dr Julian Litten CHURCH TIMES 2012-11-23)

For Morris, this book is an 'expedition' into the past, and as such it is both expansive and singular. But Time's Anvil is also an impassioned history and defence of archeology, a history of humanity in England and a heartfelt mediation on transience and mortality. (Nick Groom THE INDEPENDENT)

This compendious and rich portmanteau comprises an array of exercises in championing archaeology against those who would decry its academic and scientific validity. (LITERARY REVIEW)

(An) undeniably curious book...the story of archeology, mixed with the author's personal and family history, and interspersed with a smattering of scientific discourse, and a fair bit of poetry. (BBC HISTORY)

An ambitious mixture of memoir, history and historiography, taking in England's prehistory and her later revolutions and battles, and en route offering a passionate paean to archaeology. (THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 2013-11-10)

For too long we have been taught about the past from "above" - from eminent people, kind enough to spare their thoughts. This book allows us to regain possession and to make archaeology personal again. (Francis Pryor THE TIMES 2013-11-16)

A Harrogate man's compelling and unusual history book has now been printed in paperback after making the longlist for this year's Samuel Johnson Non-Fiction Prize. (Graham Chalmers HARROGATE ADVERTISER 2013-11-21)

(Morris) mixes a history of archaeology with family memoirs and a vista of the past from the Mesolothic era to industrial Birmingham - his home soil. The result is a richly textured, and very moving hybrid: as studded with jewels as the mud around an Anglo-Saxon tomb. The ground beneath your feet will never feel the same again. (Boyd Tonkin INDEPENDENT 2013-11-22)

Book Description

A personal and lyrical rediscovery of the history of England through archaeology and the imagination

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive 9 Sep 2013
My take on this book is that it reads somewhat like a series of essays on connected topics that range throughout hitsory.

Some of the essays appealed hugely to me, some didn't. The chapter entitled 'Notes from a dark wood', on theories of the degree of forestation throughout early and pre-history, I read in one go and found fascinating. Like Francis Pryor's comment I think it is a bold book, and an adventurous attempt to link themes that the author has covered in his professional and personal life.

At times it felt an easy read, at times a more scholarly one. The best thing about this book is that it regularly provided sentences that surprised me and made me reflect on my own personal theories in completely different ways.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking Read 2 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fascinating and interesting, love the background stories of the pioneers in archaeology. Have read this twice now and it has helped my understanding of time and seeing things in the right context. Thank you
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Format:Kindle Edition
A very literate and sensitive yet scientific tour of the land. All lands in principle, but with an emphasis on England. The author is/was a professional archeologist (and explains the modern methodology excellently), but he doesn't rest there. He digs around in climateology, biology, technology, industry, religion, poetry and personal history. Sometimes his topics seem obscure (Saints?) but invariably the logic and fascination of the ideas comes through.

It reminded me in scope of what James Burke was trying to achieve in Connections, and also the main thrust of Peter Ackroyd's psychogeographical tours of London. Namely (the connectionist angle) that everything depends on nearly everything else, and secondly the sheer depth of human activity associated with the most seemingly mundane of places.

I found it absolutely fascinating, and have been outwardly unproductive for several days in the course of reading it. Meanwhile, I'm filled with more questions about how we got here, and where we might go next.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Insight 5 Feb 2013
By ashtree
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At last a book that takes a balanced and up to date view of the ramifications of archaeology. Morris's accessible style asks many pertinent questions about historical knowlege and our understanding of the past. He debunks a number of myths and removes the science from its academic pedestal.His personal, autobiographical insights help greatly to bring archaeology into the realms of the living.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant survey of modern archaelolgy 28 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Covers many aspects of the development of archaeology from field walking to aerial surveys and the rise of the links with
metal detectorists. The accounts of the Battle of Naseby and the search For Bosworth Field are absolutely fascinating. But they are just two of the engrossing accounts of the work to uncover England's history from the ground.
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