In this volume, Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver visit the sites of six major British battles, from Shrewsbury to Culloden, and carry out a full archaeological investigation at each. As they uncover artefacts abandoned in the heat and chaos of battle they closely follow the progress of each engagement and answer key historical questions, sometimes totally revising the accepted version of events. Each chapter is a fully framed investigation and follows an episode of the BBC television series. By using archaeology to unlock the secrets of the past, Tony and Neil prove that soldiers do not pass through fields of conflict like shadows, and in the process they show that battlefields are some of our most important national monuments.
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Two Men in a Trench is the richly illustrated companion to the sprightly BBC television history programme of the same name. Despite announcing in their introduction that battlefield archaeology is "too exciting for words" Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver--the soi-disant Jamie Olivers of archaeology--provide an articulate and engaging account of their tour of six major British battlefield sites.
Closely following the formula (and transcripts) of the series, each chapter begins with an impressively succinct historical outline of the battle in question. The duo then present a detailed investigation of the site, revealing along the way just what a tricky but exciting old business archaeology can be. For example, in Barnet, the scene of a bloody Yorkist victory in 1471, the duo finds that a modern golf course has altered the landscape so dramatically that it is virtually impossible to find any traces of the battle. The hunt for a medieval grave-pit in Shrewsbury also ends in disappointment. However, at Flodden their excavations unearth some quite compelling new material to explain how the English vanquished the Scottish king James IV in 1513. While hardly in the same league as Richard Holmes or Simon Schama, Pollard and Oliver clearly know their stuff and their zest for the grubby, hands-on graft of archaeology is admirably communicated here. --Travis ElboroughReview:
"Battlefield archaeology allows you to touch what history talks about; it starts where the written stories stop" - Tony Pollard"
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