Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History

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9780007203611: Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History

As he did in ‘Britain B.C.’ and ‘Britain A.D.’, eminent archaeologist Francis Pryor challenges familiar historical views of the Middle Ages by examining fresh evidence from the ground.

The term 'Middle Ages' suggests a time between two other ages: a period when nothing much happened. In his radical reassessment, Francis Pryor shows that this is incorrect and that the Middle Ages were actually the time when the modern world was born. This was when Britain moved from Late Antiquity into a world we can recognize: roads and parishes became fixed; familiar institutions, such as the church and local government, came into being; industry became truly industrial; and international trade was now a routine process.

Archaeology shows that the Middle Ages were far from static. Based on everyday evidence, Pryor demonstrates that the British agricultural and industrial revolutions had their roots in this era – as did the explosion of British maritime power in the late 1700s. It stresses the strength of development at the expense of 'revolution' and the profound effect the Black Death had on loosening the grip of the feudal system.

The Middle Ages can now be seen in a fresh light as an era of great inventiveness as the author examines such topics as 'upward mobility'; the power of the Church; the role of the Guilds as precursors of trade unions; and the importance of transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges and shipbuilders.

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Review:

'Francis Pryor is that rare combination of a first-rate working archaeologist and a good writer, with priceless ability of being able to explain complex ideas clearly...Herein lies a great pleasure of Pryor's writing...The author's eclectic interests and his passion for a past he considers deeply relevant to the present drive “Britain in the Middle Ages”. This is popular archaeology at its best: engaging, knowledgeable and provocative, driven by the author's zestful, insatiable curiosity. One can only hope that Pryor makes good his threat to write a book on the archaeology of the 20th century. It will be an eye-opener.' The Times Higher Educational Supplement

Praise for ‘Britain B.C.’:

'It bounds along, wonderfully enlivened by Pryor's earthy enthusiasm. If you want to be introduced painlessly to the fascinating debates surrounding our British past, then “Britain BC” is the book for you.'’ Barry Cunliffe, New Scientist

'Francis Pryor is a modern field archaeologist with a reputation second to none...lucid and engaging.’ Alan Garner, The Times

About the Author:

Dr Francis Pryor has spent thirty years studying the prehistory of the Fens. He has excavated Bronze Age farms, field systems and entire Iron Age villages. In 1987, with his wife Maisie Taylor, he set up the Fenland Archaeological Trust, which opened Flag Fen to the public. He appears frequently on TV’s Time Team and is the author of ‘Seahenge’, as well as ‘Britain B.C.’ and ‘Britain A.D.’, which he adapted and presented for Channel 4.

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