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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable journey around Roman Britain
This is an excellent book, informative, erudite, and up to the minute in its discussions of the latest discoveries and thinking about Roman Britain. Charlotte Higgins writes very well, evoking the differing Roman sites and landscapes in flowing, often atmospheric, prose. Her use of imagery, and her clear delight, in particular at the flora that can clothe these ancient...
Published 13 months ago by Anthony Parsdon

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, but not (for me) gripping
The author uses her travels around Roman remains in Britain to bring together a historical account of the years the Romans were here (starting in Deal with Julius Caesar's inconclusive invasions) and ending with the last Roman remains (Mildenhall hoard and so on) before the end of Roman Britain in 408AD. As she goes she bring together the stories of scholars who have...
Published 8 months ago by William Jordan


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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable journey around Roman Britain, 6 Aug 2013
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This is an excellent book, informative, erudite, and up to the minute in its discussions of the latest discoveries and thinking about Roman Britain. Charlotte Higgins writes very well, evoking the differing Roman sites and landscapes in flowing, often atmospheric, prose. Her use of imagery, and her clear delight, in particular at the flora that can clothe these ancient sites, give considerable pleasure. Personal details from her journeys - for example, the oft breaking-down camper van or the dodgy individuals met along the Antonine Wall - provide context, reader empathy, and often amusement, but never overly intrude. She displays her academic credentials in some detailed commentaries on, for example, literary sources and the iconography of mosaics, accompanied by a fair sprinkling of Latin quotations (happily, with translation). She gives as well many interesting facts from the life stories of antiquarians and archaeologists who have been involved in the subject of Roman Britain over the recent centuries. Leading archaeologists today clearly co-operated in her site visits, enabling her to represent the very latest views on a number of controversial issues.

I haven't enjoyed a book on Roman Britain so much for a long time. The nearest parallel is Leonard Cottrell's 'Seeing Roman Britain', but that is now nearly 60 years out of date and did not perhaps have the same professional rigour as the present work. Charlotte Higgins' book was very much needed. It could be turned into an excellent TV series. The only thing I spotted not quite right - other than for one or two typos - is the statement, repeated, that Hod Hill is near Maiden Castle: they are, in fact, well over 20 miles apart!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining guide to Roman Britain, 27 Aug 2013
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There are a lot of books and TV programmmes at the moment about the ancient world, and so any new book needs to bring something new to the mix. Charlotte Higgins provides a very personal account of her visits to different corners of Britain, and with a journalist's eye captures the experience of seeing them for the first time and talking to experts about how they came about.

As a Classics graduate, she knows her stuff and is well infomred. But the journalist in her is able to distil the infomration into a very readable account.

For those readers inspired to follow in her footsteps, there is plenty of information in the suffix of the book, providing her sources and also how to get to each of the sites she mentions.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And what a glorious sky to be under and to behold, 20 Aug 2013
By 
Daniel Fergus Tamulonis (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
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Charlotte Higgins writes from the heart, with superb, scholarly insight and confidence. Her book was such a pleasure to read, exciting, funny, awe-inspiring and humbling.
As a young man, I had the great good fortune to spend a long summer in Britain and was encouraged by my host family in Marlborough to explore. I was working full-time but, with the audacity of the young, I hitchhiked all over. I saw the standing stones at Avebury and Stonehenge and explored Bath and the highlands of Scotland. How moving it was to read of some of these same places in Ms. Higgins' book.
"Oh, to be in England ... " indeed! Alas, air fares are not what they were then! Still, with books like "Under Another Sky" it is almost, _almost_ as extraordinary as being there.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and quirky view of Roman Britain, 28 Oct 2013
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Pamela Thomas (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive gazetteer of the sites to be found all over the country, or an in-depth history of Roman Britain, which some of the more negative reviewers seem to have been expecting. But it casts a bright spotlight on some more obscure places, some of which I'd never heard of, and some of which - Vindolanda, Bath, Silchester - have become famous. I found the story of how each era has interpreted Roman Britain in its own image, to bolster its own prejudices, as fascinating as the details of how the sites were originally discovered and excavated, with some interesting sidelights on well-known archaeologists. Finally, the losses over the years, particularly in the eighteenth and even the nineteenth centuries, of mosaics casually broken up, buildings demolished for their stone, treasure hidden, is both tragic and an appalling indictment of greed, thoughtlessness and ignorance. My one complaint is the lack of good photographs - the ones embedded in the text are dark and unclear. It would have benefited from some clear colour images, particularly of the mosaics, which are beautifully described but, apart from a couple, not illustrated.
And even if Ms Higgins hadn't produced a well-written, entertaining overview of Roman Britain and what it has meant to us down the ages, her obvious love for the novels of Rosemary Sutcliff, particularly my own childhood favourite The Eagle of the Ninth, would make it worthy of an extra star.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part history, part travelogue, part archaeological study - wholly interesting, 25 July 2013
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Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This is a good popular study of what Roman Britain has - and does - mean to various people across time. Higgins has a Classics BA and is a journalist so this is intelligent without being academic or scholarly. Setting out her stall upfront, Higgins sets out to show how `Britain' has always been a constructed idea for the Romans (e.g. Catullus' ultimosque Brittanos, `the most remote Britons', c.11), just as `Roman Britain' is for us, as well as being both a chronological and physical location.

Travelling around the UK to various Roman sites (London, Bath, Scotland, Norfolk etc.) this is an expansive narrative that dips in and out of being a travelogue, a history, an archaeological guide and more.

Higgins is a witty and interesting companion on this journey and writes well in a style which is easy to read without compromising on accuracy - fluent and fascinating, this is a book crying out for a TV series.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, but not (for me) gripping, 31 Dec 2013
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The author uses her travels around Roman remains in Britain to bring together a historical account of the years the Romans were here (starting in Deal with Julius Caesar's inconclusive invasions) and ending with the last Roman remains (Mildenhall hoard and so on) before the end of Roman Britain in 408AD. As she goes she bring together the stories of scholars who have played a critical role in unearthing and interpreting the historical record (Mortimer Wheeler, RG Collingwood, and living scholars of today who interpret Vindolanda tablets) and a more general account of what it is like in the places where there are Roman remains (so Bath through the ages, briefly, and so on - it hasn't always flourished as it does today). She also covers the place that Roman remains have had in cultural life, commissioning new music for a theme written by Benjamin Britten to verses of WH Auden pre-war, a blues about the Romans in Britain, Roman Wall Blues. And talks to, for example, freelance Roman centurions...

This sounds like a winning combination and clearly many readers have found it so. I found it less satisfying than I had anticipated. Perhaps there's just not quite enough left of Roman remains to make this really interesting (the black and white illustrations may not do them justice?); or not quite a vivid enough sense of Roman culture emergent - though the book did make me think - Romans, for instance, not being Italians from Rome, but free men from anywhere in the Empire and people who served in Britain came from all over, and the precise nature of Hadrian's Wall with fortified gatehouses every mile along the route, ie perhaps it wasn't really meant to keep out invasions.

I suspect the chapter at the back saying what there is to see and where, and how to see it (book B&B in advance for six nights if you are walking Hadrian's Wall) is a very helpful guide - but I haven't used it as such!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars readable and informative, 30 Sep 2013
Setting off in a temperamental 1974 VW campervan, Classics scholar and journalist Charlotte Higgins explores Britain in search of its Roman past. She discovers ruins and remains, sometimes in the most unlikely of places -- fragments of a basilica in a city centre hairdresser's, for example, or the remains of a Roman wall in a London car park.

Always readable and informative, Charlotte's narrative seeks to uncover the legacies of four centuries of Roman occupation:
"I wanted to discover the ways in which the idea of Roman Britain has resonated in British culture," she writes, "and still forms part of the texture of its landscape."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting., 28 Sep 2013
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I enjoyed this book immensely. I am British but have lived in Mexico since 1967. This book brought back so many memories, I am already fantasizing about trips I could make on my next visit back to England. What impressed me was Charlotte's writing style, matter of fact, poetic, full of knowledge but not the slightest bit pretentious. Impressive indeed in one so young.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ideal primer, 26 May 2014
By 
Blencathra (West Yorkshire.) - See all my reviews
The author, currently The Guardian's chief arts writer but with a Classics background, has over the past years developed a particular fascination with Roman Britain, travelling around Britain to visit most of the main sites and finds of the time, including walking the full lengths of both Antonine and Hadrian Walls. This book is, in part, an account of those visits and the stories behind the sites, both of their places in the history of Roman Britain and of their discoveries. To help follow the historical chronology, rather than following her visits in the order she travelled, the chapters each focus on a particular area that relates best to successive periods of that history, so it is more of a historical than travel piece. Thus the opening chapter focuses on Kent and Sussex and the early invasions, moving on to Norfolk with its association with Boudica's uprising, and so on westwards and northwards, until returning to East Anglia and the Saxon Shore forts representing the dying years of the Empire's presence in Britannia.

It is however, rather more than that, as the author herself explains: "This book is very far from a comprehensive account of Britain's Roman remains. Instead, I wanted to see what I could learn from an encounter with them. Not to discover what being in Roman Britain was like - for I was convinced of the irrecoverability of the lives of people from the deep past, except as manifestations of the historical imaginations of those who described them. Rather, I wanted to think about what this period means, and has meant, to a British sense of history and identity. I wanted to discover the ways in which the idea of a Roman Britain has resonated in British culture and still forms part of the texture of its landscape."

And, given the temporal distance, it rather surprised me how relevant it does appear. This was particularly highlghted by the section of the York chapter covering the 'ivory bangle lady', a skeleton excavated in the city in the early years of the 20th century. Much more recent work (it is particularly noticeable how much has happened in the past 5-10 years in Roman Britain research) suggests that she was of mixed-race ancestry, possibly from north Africa. The controversy surrounding the suggestion that Roman Britain may have been rather more multicultural than previously thought indicates how important even such distant history can be in comtemporary cultural belief, significantly influencing both sides of the divide.

Somewhat quirky and personal, it may not be as as good 'history' as some other books, but that wasn't the author's objective, as she clearly states. However, having never really taken more than a superficial interest in Roman Britain before, I found this an ideal entry point, vividly bringing the places and the subject alive, wetting my appetite to learn more about the detail of the period, whilst showing me how relevant it is to us today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman Britain today, 16 May 2014
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This is a most fascinating account of what remains of our Roman heritage in terms of its tangible remains.. Charlotte Higgins demolishes myths but provides an evocative account of a world that not only surrounds us but exists within us.
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