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In February 2005 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded over £3 million to the Victoria County History (VCH) – the high priest of England’s local history – to establish an ambitious new local history project, England’s Past for Everyone (EPE).
Two books on druids in two years, and by the same author! If I were either of Ronald Hutton’s publishers I’d be biting my nails over this, but let me reassure them both right at the start that Hutton pulls it off, and in style. The two really do complement each other. So what does Blood and Mistletoe have that The Druids: A History (1) does not?
The cover is a view from Stirling Castle: in the foreground a carved lion rampant, in the background the Wallace Tower, the Scottish national monument, raised by public subscription in 1859; in the valley below, Stirling Bridge somewhere near the site of William Wallace's victory over the forces of Edward I in 1297; just out of the picture, the field of Bannockburn.
A new series under the general editorship of Keith Robbins, with the laudable aim of locating British history firmly within its European context, has been launched at what it regards as the beginning - not with Britain moving out of primitive isolation to become part of Europe, but rather with Britain emerging gradually from prehistory.
'From the Sea of Perpetual Gloom to the Holiday Cruise'
'Geography is about maps, History about chaps': a tired cliché, of course, though it tells us something about the ways in which disciplinary boundaries were constructed during the relatively recent past. Few historians today would make such a facile claim, if only because of the absurdity of the notion that only 'chaps' make history.