A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
The first instance of the name Hamtunscir appeared in the 8th century, but there has been a human presence in the county of Hampshire since around 12,000 BC when we were still part of the European continent until the sea level rose and we became separate. Since then traces of the people of the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze age have been found. The Iron age brought hill-forts and stability to the region and then 2000 odd years ago the Romans arrived and overlaid their rule on the existing peoples. The county’s long and fascinating history is reflected in the way that writers have used it as a source of material and inspiration through the ages.
There are chapters on the three main towns of the county, the ancient capital Winchester, where the rivers meet the sea in Southampton and the naval port of Portsmouth and the authors, poetry and prose that have emanated from these places. But Hampshire is more than a coastal county, there is the 1000-year-old New Forest, seized from the locals by William the Conqueror as a personal hunting ground; it has almost all the world’s chalk streams that flow from the downs that cross the country.
Langlands has scoured books and manuscripts to bring the very best of Hampshire writers and writing. There are the people that you’d expect, Jane Austen and Gilbert White as well as a raft of others including Wodehouse, Doyle and even Hardy who had ventured out of Dorset. The subject matter is wide-ranging too, people and places feature heavily as you’d expect, but there are musings on cricket, churches, fishing, war, Basingstoke and of course natural history. My favourite chapters were titled Hinterland and The New Forest and the one on Chalk Streams and Cricketers as well as the one on Gilbert White were equally fascinating. I have lived either side of Hampshire, first in Surrey and now in Dorset, both times fairly close to the county border, travelled through it many times and know parts of it fairly well. This is an interesting collection of writings from those that have had some association or made their livelihoods from the county and is a worthy addition to the Eland Through Writers’ Eyes series.