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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Limited History of the Cotwolds, 5 July 2007
Ukhuman1st "Mike" (Gloucester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cotswolds (Hardcover)
The jacket cover note for this book claims that it "is the first detailed history of the [Cotswolds] region, as a whole, and of the evolution of its unique character." But readers will quickly discover that its scope is actually far more limited. On page 21, the author explains the early use of the term 'Cotswold' to cover what most modern readers would regard as the Northern Cotswolds, roughly north of the A40, and explains that "these places define the true Cotswolds, described in this book." But she admits that "since [the 16th Century], the name has been applied to an increasingly wide area." Anyone wanting to know about the history of this whole wider area will therefore be sadly disappointed, as a glance at the index will confirm. There are very few references even to the major towns of Cirencester, Cheltenham or Tetbury, and none at all to Stroud, Nailsworth, Dursley and well-known places like the Duntisbournes, Bisley, Miserden, Minchinhampton, Fairford and many other towns regarded today as quintessentially Cotswold. The omission of the Stroud valleys means that the importance of the Industrial revolution on that part of the world is not covered at all. But Anthea Jones' history is also limited in other respects, as it really says nothing at all about the Ancient Cotswold and the Roman occupation, and very little about the 20th century. Indeed, I would suggest that a much more fitting (albeit less snappy) title for this book would be along the lines "A History of Land Tenure in the Northern Cotswolds since the Anglo-Saxons".

These negative comments are, of course, about what the book is NOT. However, in respect of those areas of history it does cover, the book is full of excellent scholarship and detail. The author patiently unravels the complexities of feudal land-tenure in chapters on the Domesday book, Anglo-Saxon estates and settlements, minsters, rectories and churches before dealing in some depth with the development of the early townships of Winchcombe, Burford, Stow, Chipping Camden, Northleach, Moreton in Marsh and Broadway. She then moves on to deal with the Cotswolds' most famous product, sheep, and the field system. The focus then switches to buildings with a chapter on knights and manor houses, with particular reference to Icomb Place, Sudeley Castle, Sherborne House, Stanway House, Burford Priory and Broadway Court. She then returns to the implications of land reform for the Cotswold peasant, and the modernisation of the church, before returning to the buildings owned by country gentlemen, with particular reference to Northwick Park. The book ends with a short chapter on the decline of village and town, with only a few pages on the coming of the railways and the motor car and subsequent developments. The book is well illustrated throughout, with many excellent colour and b&w photographs, although readers who are not familiar with the detailed geography of the area will wish that the author had provided more maps (the inside covers have an old map of the whole area but it is hard to read and does not go down to the level of detail the author covers).

Overall, this book is not the general history of the whole Cotswolds that it appears to be and may be too detailed and 'dry' for a casual reader, especially if they do not already know the areas and buildings it covers. But with those caveats, it still does have a lot to offer the discerning reader.
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The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds by Anthea Jones (Hardcover - 1 Jan 1994)
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