Top positive review
Where are you, Tony Robinson?
on 2 January 2018
Written in 1955, The Making of the English Landscape by William Hoskins is one of the most influential books ever written in that uncertain territory where archaeology, geography and history overlap. By the late 1980s, however, the book was beginning to date and this edition - with a comprehensive commentary by Christopher Taylor - reflects the research which had been given momentum by the original text. In this book, the original chapters are prefaced by thoughtful introductions from Taylor who puts Hoskins' writing into context in a firm but gentlemanly and nuanced fashion - as demonstrated in his opening to his introduction to Chapter One: "Professor Hoskins was somewhat dismissive of the impact and relevance of prehistoric and Roman people in the making of the English landscape. Writing first in 1955 when field archaeology in this country can be said to have been in its infancy, neither he nor anyone else could have had any conception..."
What sets the book apart, however, are Taylor's notes made in the book's generous margins which correct the original text by Hoskins in the same firm but gentlemanly and nuanced fashion. One small example chosen at random should serve: on page 93 Hoskins writes about the founding of Salisbury between 1220 and 1225 while, in the margin, Taylor elaborates on the role of existing roads and the influence of topography on drainage in controlling the detailed grid layout of the city. The detail is exceptional.
I bought this as a replacement copy after lending my original to one of my students and never seeing it again; I can understand why the student in question kept it!
What is needed now is a twenty first century re-write in the same style; where are you, Tony Robinson?