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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that opens all sorts of possibilities
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...
Published on 4 Jun 2010 by Big Jim

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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvinced!
I am afraid I was disappointed with this book. Setting aside the need for a good edit to take out much of the repetitive detail, I must start with some pedantry. The book has a large number of minor, factual errors which should have been spotted before publication. Thus, and for example only, Wroxeter Roman City is in Shropshire and not Warwickshire as stated towards the...
Published on 4 Jan 2011 by DC Williams


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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that opens all sorts of possibilities, 4 Jun 2010
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy effort, 5 Nov 2010
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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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really very good - but not perfect, 10 Aug 2010
By 
Stewart M (Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
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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. Some of the pictures are a little too small to show much detail, and it would help if illustration intended for comparison were one facing pages - but these really are minor issue of layout rather than content.

What I do find difficult is that I was able to find mistakes in the book - not typos or the rather frustrating tendency to repeat definitions that have already been made, but errors of fact. The scree run below the Langdale Pikes axe factory site is identified as a waterfall, and the Stadium of Light, Sunderland FC's new home ground is apparently in Middlesbrough. Errors of omission are understandable, even in a book that already runs to 800 pages, but factual errors are another thing entirely. (While you may say that two mistakes is not a bad effort for a book of this size, most of the book contained details about landscapes and regions I have never been in - where I knew the landscape, I found mistakes - and please don't point out my typos - I'm not a professional).

The final section of the book is really a plea for a greater level of connection between people and their landscape - an idea which should clearly be applauded.

To conclude I will return to the first paragraph of my review. This is an ambitious book with a few issues (all of which could be sorted out in a second edition). As a starting point for study of the British landscape it really is very, very good - but you just may want to check on a few of the details!

Recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pryor rambles over the landscape, 15 Dec 2010
By 
Richard H (Virginia, USA) - See all my reviews
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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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, accessible and well written, 15 Oct 2010
This is an excellent book. I really enjoyed reading it. At 800 pages it is a big read. Pryor's reputation is as a prehistorian and plainly the early chapters are first class as expected, but I did initially fear that as we progressed to the "Dark Ages" and beyond, I would sense a fall-off of confidence and expertise....but not so. If he has had to (occasionally) "lean heavily" on other authors he says so and offers a good bibliography. The layout of the book is good - a large number of sections within each chapter to break up and organise the text, and a source reference style that does not interrupt the flow of the text. I think Pryor's knowledge of agriculture as a Fenman sheep farmer enhances the text and gives a perspective that would be missing from an academic author sat at a desk in a university. He bursts the bubble of quite a few "known truths" and his arguments and interpretations offered are convincing.
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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvinced!, 4 Jan 2011
By 
DC Williams "David" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I am afraid I was disappointed with this book. Setting aside the need for a good edit to take out much of the repetitive detail, I must start with some pedantry. The book has a large number of minor, factual errors which should have been spotted before publication. Thus, and for example only, Wroxeter Roman City is in Shropshire and not Warwickshire as stated towards the end of the book; Telford's suspension bridge at Conwy is not on the Shrewsbury to Holyhead Road or anywhere near it; and the Stadium of Light is in Sunderland not Middlesbrough. On a similar, relatively minor note, the black and white photographs are not at all clear and left me struggling to pick out the features mentioned in their explanatory notes. Some of the maps selected hardly add to understanding either.

But my main issues were threefold. Firstly, there was the self-indulgent trait of the author constantly mentioning his own circumstances, including at least two photographs of his own garden to illustrate relatively trivial points. I do not believe readers need to see a picture of the author's vegetable plot. And we got the message that he is a sheep farmer. Secondly, much of his last few chapters seemed to loose their way and become something of a polemic. They became an excuse for the author to express his personal likes and dislikes rather than to continue his explanation of how the British landscape developed. So windfarms and motorways seem to be good; and multi-storey car parks bad. Finally, the book seemed very unbalanced in emphasis throughout. So we had a section on domestic greenhouses and later on topiary, lots about individual buildings, a very heavy emphasis on East Anglia and the Fens (where the author farms), yet only thin mentions, for example, of Wales (and no, I am not Welsh!), National Parks (except the Lake District, and surprisingly little on the Common Agricultural Policy, and its impact on the farmed landscape and rural areas or of the de-industrialisation of Britain from the 1960's and its impact on the landscape. And the recent population growth of the UK of c10 million since the mid 1970's and the impact of this on housing is not mentioned at all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A history of our surroundings, 7 Nov 2011
By 
C. CUNLIFFE "Aged Heptaphile" (North Tawton, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today (Paperback)
This book deals with the changes, evolution and development of the British landscape since the end of the Ice Ages. It is, I think, intended to expand upon Hoskins book of the same name since so much has been discovered archaeologically about the English landscape in the earliest period of settlement since Hoskins was active; with a very necessary expansion of the pre and post Industrial period following the development of the disciplines of Industrial Archaeology. I did find myself arguing with Prior's exasperation that the extensive knowledge of the predictability of the calendar in Neolithic times didn't immediately lead to a flowering of 21st century rationalism, but this is a minor point in a very useful and helpful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read for country lovers, 5 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today (Paperback)
If you want to know why the British landscape looks the way it does, this is the book for you. It's dense with information but highly readable. I haven't finished it yet but am thoroughly enjoying it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 4 Aug 2013
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I have just finished reading The Making of the British Landscape and thoroughly enjoyed it. It took me a few weeks to complete as it is a long book (covering a very broad range of landscape related subject areas) but I found it easy to read and very thought provoking. Although highly personal in places, Dr Pryor has done a great job, even finding significant merit in quite unexpected places such as the suburbs. Some books I read and then forget, others never leave me and this is definitely one of those. I will certainly re-read this book. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 14 Jan 2013
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A rather long but interesting read. Pryor's views & opinions are clearly explained which makes one think about the countryside around you.
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