Pagan Britain Hardcover – 1 Nov 2013
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"With Pagan Britain [Mr Hutton] has written a thoughtful critique of how historians and archaeologists often interpret ruins and relics to suit changing ideas about religion and nationhood...Mr Hutton leads readers to question not only the ways in which Britain's ancient past is analysed, but also how all history is presented. He is also a lovely writer with a keen sense of the spiritual potency of Britain's ancient landscape."-The Economist The Economist "This is an expedition into deep time: a meticulous critical review of the known and sometimes shadowy rituals and beliefs in the British Isles from early prehistory to the advent of Christianity...Ronald Hutton brings the discussion alive with detail and debate...offer[ing] a visceral experience of the remarkable and often enigmatic evidence for ancient beliefs, rituals and practices in the British Isles."-Sarah Semple, Times Higher Education Supplement -- Sarah Semple THES "This magisterial synthesis of archaeology, history, anthropology and folklore traces religious belief in Britain from the emergence of modern humans to the conversion to Christianity."-Jonathan Eaton, Times Higher Education Supplement -- Jonathan Eaton THES "Hutton writes as an even-handed observer of his own discipline, and it is here that most of the solid evidence of ritual behaviour can be found."-Graham Robb, The Guardian -- Graham Robb The Guardian "Graceful prose ... a brisk pace ... This is a big book on a vast subject, presented intelligently."-John L. Murphy, PopMatters -- John L. Murphy PopMatters Shortlisted for the 2015 Hessell-Tilman Prize -- Hessell-Tilman Prize Hessell-Tilman
About the Author
Ronald Hutton is professor of history, University of Bristol, and a leading authority on ancient, medieval, and modern paganism. He lives in Bristol, UK.
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Top Customer Reviews
First impressions are of an attractive, well-produced book, containing many more illustrations than its predecessor, though still in monochrome. The illustrations are well-chosen, including many of the usual suspects - the 'Sorcerer of Trois Frères,' the 'Venus of Willendorf,' and so on - but going well beyond them. For example, a group headed 'Less familiar Palaeolithic images' includes human figurines that were found alongside the much better known 'Venuses' on which whole theories of prehistoric belief have been built. These images and their accompanying text provide one example of a process Hutton follows throughout the book, returning to original excavation reports and re-examining, often at first-hand, the objects described so as to place them in their proper context. He has visited or re-visited many sites where objects were found, often in company with archaeological specialists. This meticulous research is filtered through the author's broad areas of personal interest, including ancient and modern paganisms and shamanism. These interests, however, are never allowed to overwhelm the evidence.Read more ›
For the Roman period, there is a useful discussion of the degree of merger between local religions and imported Roman cults. An interesting feature is the return to apparently religious activity in some of the hill forts in the late Roman period. However, the author establishes that paganism had died out in the Romano-British areas at least by the sixth century. Similarly, Saxon paganism and later Viking paganism saw rapid extinctions. With respect to later centuries, the author discusses the persecution of witches, but dismisses the idea that they were evidence of an underground pagan survival.
As in most descriptions of early religion, both academic and popular, there is a tendency to pass over shamanistic or mystical elements. The possibility of a shamanistic element in the pre-Roman religions is touched on, but not discussed in any depth. Similarly, the mystery religions, which were certainly present in Britain, and had a big role in Roman religion in the immediately pre-Christain centuries, get a rather limited coverage.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Nothing airy fairy here. Lovingly researched and painlessly presesntedPublished 2 months ago by caroline vieira
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 was instrumental in reviving interest in the writings of Classical Greece and Rome. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Neutral
Great in-depth and complete overview, as can be expected by Ronald Hutton. A must-have for every lover of this topic.Published 11 months ago by Annette Flinterman
Excellent service - the wonderful Ronald Hutton at his literate best.Published 14 months ago by Dynesosirgaer
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