13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
What it means to be Celtic,
This review is from: The Celts: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)The Celts have had a long and complex journey, both through history and myth, and this entry in the excellent Very Short Introduction series is a great place to start tracing that journey. Some historians question whether 'Celtic' is even a meaningful or useful term. Is it a modern invention? Who were, or are, these people or peoples we call 'Celts'? Cunliffe warns at the outset that finding reliable answers will not be easy, then proceeds to make it as easy as possible.
He views the subject from various angles - linguistic, archeological, Classical (the Roman and Greek accounts), ethnological - and gradually builds a coherent picture. His bias reflects the current orthodoxy that cultural influence spread without the mass migrations that used to be assumed -- ideas and customs spread, not necessarily people. He encourages us to take a view from the Atlantic, and see the Celts as European peoples who traded along that seaboard. Some readers might wish for more detailed maps -- the author or publisher seems to assume that you will know which rivers are the Marne, Danube, etc.
This is an authoritative and accurate work, although I did spot one surprising blunder: On page 137, the ceremony of All Souls is described as taking place on October 31, preceding All Saints. In fact it follows All Saints, on November 2.
Cunliffe's prose is very readable, except that he has a fondness for litotes ("It is not unreasonable to suppose..." "It is not unlikely that..."). This can get not unirritating after a while.
A great deal of misinformation surrounds Celticism. It has become a tool for propagandists and nationalists. There is a certain amount of healthy debunking in this book, but the Celts emerge alive and well. Before I read it, I thought I was of Celtic descent on my mother's side. After reading it, I still do, but now I have some idea of what that means. If you want to know about the Celts, then you need to choose your sources with care, because - as Cunliffe hints - there are many 'lunatic fringe' publications out there. This is a safe place to start.