Britain is a unique country, not only does our little island have some of the planets oldest rocks in the Hebrides, but it is still being formed by waves in the present day. Starting way back in the Mesolithic, Nick Crane takes us back to the time when the glaciers were retreating and the first Britons made their way across the land bridge from the continent and made their home here as the land surrendered to the waves. When we became an island, our resources and place on the gulf stream made it attractive for all sorts of visitors. The Romans were the first to try, but succeeded on the second attempt. And have been followed by a whole variety of others, including Saxons, Vikings, Normans and the Dutch. Each wave of people shaped and moulded the land to their needs leaving us with the landscape and cities that we had today. These ages were punctuated with significant events; wars, plagues, the land grabs of the enclosures and the industrial revolution; adding their own to what we have today.
For a small island we have so much history that is both deeply fascinating and complex. Nick Crane has had a good stab at distilling all of that into a single book, but it cannot be anymore that an overview. It is fairly well written, the narrative is full of detail and fascinating anecdotes, but I’m not completely sure why he has ended up writing a history book, though there is some overlap in what he has done with Coast. Overall, it is not bad. I have read most of his books so far, and I must say that I prefer his travel books to this.