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Two Men in a Trench: Battlefield Archaeology - The Key to Unlocking the Past [Hardcover]

Tony Pollard , Neil Oliver
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Mar 2002
In this volume, Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver visit the sites of six major British battles, from Shrewsbury to Culloden, and carry out a full archaeological investigation at each. As they uncover artefacts abandoned in the heat and chaos of battle they closely follow the progress of each engagement and answer key historical questions, sometimes totally revising the accepted version of events. Each chapter is a fully framed investigation and follows an episode of the BBC television series. By using archaeology to unlock the secrets of the past, Tony and Neil prove that soldiers do not pass through fields of conflict like shadows, and in the process they show that battlefields are some of our most important national monuments.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd; 1st Edition edition (7 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718144740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718144746
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 19.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 483,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

Two Men in a Trench is the richly illustrated companion to the sprightly BBC television history programme of the same name. Despite announcing in their introduction that battlefield archaeology is "too exciting for words" Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver--the soi-disant Jamie Olivers of archaeology--provide an articulate and engaging account of their tour of six major British battlefield sites.

Closely following the formula (and transcripts) of the series, each chapter begins with an impressively succinct historical outline of the battle in question. The duo then present a detailed investigation of the site, revealing along the way just what a tricky but exciting old business archaeology can be. For example, in Barnet, the scene of a bloody Yorkist victory in 1471, the duo finds that a modern golf course has altered the landscape so dramatically that it is virtually impossible to find any traces of the battle. The hunt for a medieval grave-pit in Shrewsbury also ends in disappointment. However, at Flodden their excavations unearth some quite compelling new material to explain how the English vanquished the Scottish king James IV in 1513. While hardly in the same league as Richard Holmes or Simon Schama, Pollard and Oliver clearly know their stuff and their zest for the grubby, hands-on graft of archaeology is admirably communicated here. --Travis Elborough


"Battlefield archaeology allows you to touch what history talks about; it starts where the written stories stop" - Tony Pollard"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Battlefield archaeology for everyone 1 July 2011
By Peasant TOP 100 REVIEWER
The television series which spawned this book was clearly aimed at the "Time Team" audience; tackling a serious subject in a lightweight manner, it was informative and irritating in equal parts. The book is the same.

In theory battlefield archaeology is fascinating, serving to check contemporary accounts against the facts, and potentially rewrite history. The book gives a vivid account of the battle as understood by history, and then looks at the result of the survey. Unfortunately the hard evidence on the ground is often in short supply, leading to academic embarassment on the part of the authors, and a lot of the kind of speculation which tries one's patience. There are some moments when the metal detector finds do, however, completely contradict the historical record and lead to a new understanding. So far, so fascinating.

These, alone, would make a slim book. "Two Men in a Trench" is padded out partly by the inclusion of a lot of unnecessary detail about the process of the survey, finding the battlefield, pitching the tents etc etc, with moody shots of the presenters gurning into the rain or poncing about in historical costume; partly with a collection of illustrations derived, it would seem, from old children's books, and partly by arranging everything in a rather long-winded layout. This is what makes it irritating. On the plus side, the authors are at pains never to glorify war, and pay great attention to the ordeal of the common peasant soldier.

The battles covered are: Shrewsbury, Barnet, Flodden, Newark, Culloden and "Firth of Forth", actually a study of the role of the 2nd World War fortifications at Inchkeith.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, enjoyable from cover to cover 15 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you didn't know anything about English history when you started this book, you sure would when you have finished it! Written in a lively manner - no dry academia here!!
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun tour into battlefield archaeology 27 Aug 2005
By Melita Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
I originally saw this book in the British Museum's bookstore 18 months ago. Because of luggage restrictions, I didn't buy it. This year when I returned to London, I did purchase it. Then I sat down and read through the entire book. The authors pick a famous battle, do general research about it, find some fact and then try to prove or disprove it by--digging trenches. And using ground-penetrating radar, and other high-tech devices. It's quite fun, and interesting what they still can turn up after hundreds of years. Because this is a companion guide to a television series, it's not a hardcore scientific treatise, but designed for the general public.

A sequel is available.

Now If I could just get a copy of the television series...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making archaeology fun 1 Nov 2009
By Mark A. Desjardins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
These two can certainly do it! I spent two weeks with them "in the field" in Eshowe, South Africa, as well and I can promise you that Tony and Neil know how to make battlefield archaeology appealing to all! I wish them more such adventures! When do we get to see chapters/episodes on Maiwand? on Tel el-Kebir? on Kut???

All the best chaps!

Mark Desjardins
Stonington, CT
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GGGGREAT!!! 3 Mar 2004
By bonedigger - Published on Amazon.com
this book is great if your into this kind of thing.. i am also an archaeologist.. and find what these guys do to be educational and facinating... and bring archaeology to the masses..this book follows the series on tv and has many more interesting facts and info... it also doesn't hurt that neil oliver is a hottie... yeh a hot looking archaeologist... of course i to am a hot looking archaeologist.. even in my muddy boots and t-shirt.. :)
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