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
53 of 60 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,
This review is from: The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today (Hardcover)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.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really very good - but not perfect,
This review is from: The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today (Hardcover)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!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy effort,
This review is from: The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today (Hardcover)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!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pryor rambles over the landscape,
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, accessible and well written,
53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvinced!,
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A history of our surroundings,
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.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark Ages good, Black Death bad?,
There are many fine and thought-provoking aspects to this book, however; it just has its blind spots.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Irritating Disappointment,
This review is from: The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today (Paperback)Firstly, let it be clear that there is much of value in this book. Further, as the author suggests there has been a great increase in knowledge and understanding since Hoskins' book thus making a new book on landscape history a necessity, however, despite this reader's high hopes and expectations, increased by reviewers' praise on the cover, the errors and slips in the book led first to amusement, turning to irritation, and finally to distrust.
The author has not been helped by his editors, but it would seem that once past the prehistoric, and outside the scope of Fenland sheep farming, his knowledge may perhaps be rather thinly spread.
Some examples of such errors and slips - at p76 fig 2.6 caption - the 'major', 'and perhaps the best known' axe factory is described as being next to a waterfall. There is no waterfall, it is a scree filled gully. Even with no local knowledge it does not look like a waterfall; the author, ignorant of this important site, misread the landscape photograph; p.346 - it would have been helpful to have a source for the 'reliably established' figure of 2263 deserted villages, and for the distribution map (fig 9.7)as it seems only one is shown in Shropshire whereas the Ordnance Survey and archeologists in the county cite a number especially on higher ground around the Clee Hills; p434 - there is a delightful slip here where reference is made to dual economies in pastoral landscapes 'in early post-modern times' - the mind boggles; p448 there is a suggestion in a rather unclear sentence that iron smelting did not use 'blast furnaces until 1755', whereas charcoal blast furnaces had replaced bloomeries in the C17th; p489 - the author says that 'population growth is almost at a standstill' - an important failure to understand present population growth; p594 Coleridge's 'famous ascent of Broad Strand' was clearly not well known to the author as the poet in fact descended the dangerous bit of rock known Broad Stand (not 'Strand') on Scafell; finally, p762 contains some extraordinary errors for someone engaged in landscape study where maps are vital - reference is made to 'Ordnance Survey 1-inch (1:50,000,000)maps.' The 50,000,000 is obviously disgraceful editing, but the author, nonetheless, refers lower down to '1-inch (1:50,000)' maps, a serious misunderstanding, or carelessness, since the old maps (pre - c.1970) at 1 inch to 1 mile were at a scale of 1:63,360.
I would have liked to give this book at least three stars but regret that I could not say it was 'OK', despite the need for such a book and the merit of much of the content. It cannot stand beside Hoskins which was, and is, a great book. Perhaps we can look forward to a more careful second edition?
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read for country lovers,
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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The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed the Land, from Prehistory to Today by Francis Pryor (Paperback - 7 April 2011)