Cunliffe steers a masterful course thorugh more than 11 millennia of human development ... This beautifully produced and informative work of synthesis and interpretation will provide an ideal starting point for those interested in the British past and a useful point of re-engagement for those who feel that they are already over-familiar with the basic narrative. BBC History Magazine Few archaeologists have the breadth of knowledge or the nerve to write on such a canvas and Sir Barry Cunliffe has created an up-to-the-minute and accessible snapshot of recent advances in excavated data and palaeobiological research for both his profession and the general reader. David Gaimster, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Barry Cunliffe's account is handsomely produced and impeccable in its scholarship, the nearest thing we have to a definitive account of Britain's story from the end of the ice Age to the Norman Conquest. The Scotsman Sweeping from the end of the last Ice Age to the eve of the Norman Conquest, this book contains a vast amount of information, accessibly presented. It is an enjoyable journey, and one that never loses sight of the wider picture. Current Archaeology
The last Ice Age, which came to an end about 12,000 years ago, swept the bands of hunter gatherers from the face of the land that was to become Britain and Ireland, but as the ice sheets retreated and the climate improved so human groups spread slowly northwards, re-colonizing the land that had been laid waste. From that time onwards Britain and Ireland have been continuously inhabited and the resident population has increased from a few hundreds to more than 60
Britain Begins is nothing less than the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples, from around 10,000BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Using the most up to date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques which help us to trace the origins and movements of these early settlers, Barry Cunliffe offers a rich narrative account of the first islanders - who they were, where they came from, and how they interacted one with
another. Underlying this narrative throughout is the story of the sea, which allowed the islanders and their continental neighbours to be in constant contact.
The story told by the archaeological evidence, in later periods augmented by historical texts, satisfies our need to know who we are and where we come from. But before the development of the discipline of archaeology, people used what scraps there were, gleaned from Biblical and classical texts, to create a largely mythological origin for the British. Britain Begins also explores the development of these early myths, which show our ancestors attempting to understand their origins. And,
as Cunliffe shows, today's archaeologists are driven by the same desire to understand the past - the only real difference is that we have vastly more evidence to work with.