The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland

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9780002572163: The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland

A journey from Shetland to Cornwall reveals – gloriously – the nature and history of the Celts.

‘I have travelled south from Stornoway through all the Hebrides to Ulster, to Galloway, to the Isle of Man, southern and western Ireland. I can report that there is such a place as Celtic Britain, that it shares a common culture, an intimately related history and strikingly similar geography. The story of Celtic Britain can be found in these places.’

The Sea Kingdoms is a narrative history based on a journey from Shetland, down the west coast of Scotland taking in the Isle of Man and the Outer Hebrides, across to Ireland, back to Anglesey and the west Welsh coast, back to Ireland again and finally Cornwall. The heart of the book is the journey from which Moffat strays into the oral histories, legends and known events of the Celts and their past. Its narrative soaked in legend and myth and sensuality, tragedy and gore. In Moffat’s masterful hands,all these apparently disparate stories, fragments of history and myth come together to give the most powerful representation yet of the race who have repeatedly changed history as we know it.

Ranging between pre-history and the present, with much inbetween – The Sea Kingdoms tells the story of a people, stretched down 1,000 miles of coastline that has to be Britain’s richest and most ancient. It also tells the story of the sea itself, which has more than anything shaped the Celtic character.

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From the Back Cover:

'Sea Kingdoms' is a history of whispers and forgetfulness, a story of how the memories and understandings of the Celtic peoples of Britain and Ireland almost faded into inconsequence. Alistair Moffat's journey round the western coast of Britain, and Ireland, takes us to the heart of Celtic Britain – Shetland, Orkney and the Empire of the Vikings, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, the Peak district – a culture which, due to its oral proclivities, has been too easily subsumed and forgotten.

In 'De Bello Gallico' Caesar began the process of converting Celtic virtues into vices. The eloquence of a non-literate people became garrulousness, their feats of memory infected by imprecision and the hyperbole of poetry. As the Celtic kingdoms of Britain were successively dismantled or compressed, this process continued. As propaganda rather than proper history, these cliché's have been remarkably successful, convincing many Celts that they really are more temperamental, more prone to the excesses of alcohol than the level-headed English. Amidst the jumble of tartan, leprechauns, leeks and clotted cream it is difficult to see clearly what remains.

Alistair Moffat tackles these preconceptions head on and, in telling the story of the Celtic people, he rediscovers a vital part of Britains most ancient and richest heritage. Whether on the northern tip of Scotland or in Cornwall, Moffat reminds us of the farms, fortresses and harbours which echoed to the speech of the Celts, who recited their history and managed their politic in recognisable versions of old Welsh and early Gaelic. In doing so, Moffat discovers something fresh and new – another country within our own.

About the Author:

Alistair Moffat was responsible for turning a rough, ragbag and forgettable part of the Edinburgh Festival into the Fringe we know today. It was he who brought the comics – starting with Rowan Atkinson – and the world-wide fame and notoriety which followed. Then he went into TV and ended up Managing Director of Scottish Television, a job he left recently to concentrate on individual writing and television projects. His first book, published by Weidenfeld, Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms, sold over 17,000 copies. This is his second. He is an expert in Scottish Gaelic and history.

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Moffat, Alistair
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2001)
ISBN 10: 0002572168 ISBN 13: 9780002572163
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Alistair Moffat
Published by Harper Collins (2001)
ISBN 10: 0002572168 ISBN 13: 9780002572163
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