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A History of Wales
A History of Wales
by John Davies
Edition: Paperback

56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best, 23 Oct. 2007
This review is from: A History of Wales (Paperback)
As a librarian, I'm sometimes asked which is the best one-volume work on the history of Wales. Until the first edition of John Davies' book was published, this was something of a problem. The best books on Welsh history dealt with particular periods, while there were drawbacks to all the complete one-volume histories.

John Davies changed all that. Always objective and fair-minded, he neither parrots cliches, as so many books on Wales do, nor rides his own hobby-horses. He gives space to political history, social history, economic history and cultural history. He manages to cram a remarkable quantity of information into 700-odd pages, while still keeping it very easy to read.

The second edition has a new chapter taking us up to the Welsh Assembly era. Sufficient to say that it is of the same high standard as the remainder of the book. If you only buy one book on Welsh history, make it this one.

The Origins of the British: The New Prehistory of Britain: A Genetic Detective Story
The Origins of the British: The New Prehistory of Britain: A Genetic Detective Story
by Stephen Oppenheimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

99 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best so far, 29 Aug. 2007
A number of books tracing the origins of the peoples of the Isles have appeared recently. While not perfect, this is the best so far, considerably superior to the rather superficial treatment in "The Blood of the Isles" by Bryan Sykes and "The Face of Britain" by Robin McKie. Oppenheimer considers all aspects of the evidence, for example linguistics, not just genetics, and lays out the evidence in much more detail than Sykes and McKie. Nevertheless, the book remains very readable if you have an interest in the subject.

A number of writers on the subject assume that the genetic makeup of the population of England before the Anglo-Saxon period must have been the same as that of Wales and Ireland, and that any differences must be down to the Anglo-Saxons or Vikings. Oppenheimer shows that this is unlikely to be true. This fits in well with other work, showing that in ancient times the sea was often a highway and the land a barrier, rather than vice versa.

Oppenheimer's idea that some of the population of eastern England in pre-Roman times may have spoken a Germanic language is somewhat less convincing, but he presents the evidence such as it is fairly and leaves it to the reader to decide whether to agree or disagree.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2014 12:56 AM BST

Blood of the Isles
Blood of the Isles
by Professor Bryan Sykes
Edition: Hardcover

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, but "dumbed-down" too far, 17 May 2007
This review is from: Blood of the Isles (Hardcover)
Bryan Sykes gives the story of his travels around the Isles collecting samples, with many interesting anecdotes along the way. In the last few pages he gives his views on the meaning of the results. The problem is that he does not give enough detail on what those results actually were for the reader to form an opinion on the reliability of his conclusions.

Several comments in the book indicate that Sykes was very keen not to make the book too technical for the general reader. A laudable aim, but the secret of a good popular science book is to make the science comprehensible and interesting to readers without a scientific background - not to leave out the science. There is a reference to a web site where the details can be found, but they should have been in the book.

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