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The Tribes of Britain Paperback – 3 Aug 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (3 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753817993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753817995
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

[Miles] draws admirably on history, demography, sociology, biology, and even climatology in this wide-ranging cornucopia. (THE TIMES (2/9/06))

Coming at a time of surely historical levels of immigration, his hugely detailed survey... provides a vital background to any discussion of why Britain is the way it is. It will certainly warm the hearts of increasingly beleaguered multiculturists. (SUNDAY TIMES (3/9/06))

A big, eccentric tract written with a Victorian zeal to educate and improve the reader... [a] magisterial work. (TELEGRAPH (26/8/06))

Book Description

Who are we? The story of the peoples of Britain and Ireland, drawing on new genetic discoveries, language, buildings and landscape.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I asked for this book for Christmas from my wife, I had been under the impression it dealt with the genetics of the British people. The book does do this, but it is hardly the primary focus. I quickly was over any disappointment as the book captured my attention through sharp, crisp writing, a plethora of engaging facts, and seamless storytelling.

The book deals with the subject of just who the British people are and how they came to be. Woven into the tapestry of the tale are the histories of the pre-historic people of Britain, of the Celts and Picts, the Britons, the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and every people and culture who have contributed to the bloodlines of the British people.

This is not a history of the Kings and Queens of England, or the hundreds of battles fought, or of the Empire. It is truly a history and an examination of the people of the British Isles.

One quickly comes to understand that it is impossible to define virtually anyone in Britain as simply "English" or "Ango-Saxon" or "Irish" - that the vast internal and external migrations and transpositions of people, language and culture that have occured over the millenia serve to blur the lines that supposedly differentiate the various home nations in terms of ancestry.

So many notable books concentrate solely on the English or on the Scots or only on the Irish, and many books that focus on Britain give only passing mention to the home nations other than England and her people. The Tribes of Britain is an excellent bit of writing about the British people as a whole and would be of interest to students of history and to the many people with any sort of British ancestry.
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Format: Paperback
I liked this book but it is very clear that it is written by an archeologist who wanders beyond his speciality into recorded history. On the well-known dispute about the proportion of Anglo-Saxons in the English population, all I can say is that anyone who thinks they were a minority needs a new pair of glasses, or has never been to Wales, Cornwall or Scotland. I cover the same ground in my own book, "History of the Britisih Isles to 1714 AD" and I come down firmly in the camp of the Anglo-Saxons. Miles sits on the fence.

When dealing with the period immediately before the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, Miles refers to the previous monarch as Edward II (died 1327) instead of Edward III (died 1377). Then he talks about a tax being imposed on foreigners by Richard II in 1440 (Richard II died in 1399). At a later stage he talks about the control of the tobacco trade by the monarchy contributing to the revolution of 1760 - what revolution? Does he mean 1642, or even 1775? There was no revolution of any kind in 1760. At the Battle of Waterloo, he says the British deployed 21,000 infantry where the size of the army (including cavalry) was actually 67,000 men. On the same page he refers to Abraham Crowley's steel works - what? Does he mean Abraham Darby's cast iron works? There is no Abraham Crowley in Wikipedia. He then refers to the completion of the canals between the Severn and the Mersey in 1727, when in fact one link in this, the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, was not completed until 1772. Later he refers to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1838 (it was passed in 1835 - he gets the date right on the next page). You get the idea.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are thinking of buying this book, I would certainly recommend it as great value for money. It is lucid and packed with interesting facts about every era of British history, so you are bound to have your mind expanded in some way.

The author was Chief Archaeologist of English Heritage and brings a huge amount of personal knowledge and experience to the subject - he seems to have done one or other excavation relevant to practically every subject he talks about, and to have spent time all over the British Isles.

The basic idea of the book is to start at the beginning and talk about the successive waves of people who have come to the British Isles - from the pre-H. sapiens Boxgrove man of 500,000 years ago, via the first modern humans arriving after the last glacial maximum, the Celts, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, the Normans, the Huguenots, the East European Jews, the West Indians who came on the Windrush in 1948, and the Ugandan Asians, up to the Somalis arriving as we speak.

The trouble is that the author continually loses focus and the book degenerates into a (very readable and original) social history of Britain. At one point, after reading several pages on the Vikings in Iceland, I thought "hang on, what has this got to do with the matter in hand?" The answer is, not a lot; the author just got carried away retailing his knowledge of the Viking migrations - but it was interesting all the same.

As far as the book's ostensible purpose is concerned - i.e. the ethnic make-up of the British population and how it got to be that way - it all ends up being rather vague.
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