Synopses & Reviews
Britain's pagan past, with its mysterious monuments, atmospheric sites, enigmatic artifacts, bloodthirsty legends, and cryptic inscriptions, is both enthralling and perplexing to a resident of the twenty-first century. In this ambitious and thoroughly up-to-date book, Ronald Hutton reveals the long development, rapid suppression, and enduring cultural significance of paganism, from the Paleolithic Era to the coming of Christianity. He draws on an array of recently discovered evidence and shows how new findings have radically transformed understandings of belief and ritual in Britain before the arrival of organized religion.
Setting forth a chronological narrative, Hutton along the way makes side visits to explore specific locations of ancient pagan activity. He includes the well-known sacred sitesand#151;Stonehenge, Avebury, Seahenge, Maiden Castle, Angleseyand#151;as well as more obscure locations across the mainland and coastal islands. In tireless pursuit of the elusive and#147;whyand#8221; of pagan behavior, Hutton astonishes with the breadth of his understanding of Britainand#8217;s deep past and inspires with the originality of his insights.
andnbsp;"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 Britainand#8217;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 Britainand#8217;s ancient landscape."and#8212;The Economist
and#8220;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.and#8221;and#8212;Sarah Semple, Times Higher Education Supplement
and#8220;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.and#8221;and#8212;Jonathan Eaton, Times Higher Education Supplement
and#8220;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.and#8221;and#8212;Graham Robb, The Guardian
and#8220;Graceful prose . . . a brisk pace . . . This is a big book on a vast subject, presented intelligently.and#8221;and#8212;John L. Murphy, PopMatters
Shortlisted for the 2015 Hessell-Tilman Prize
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.