This book is an excursion through a very small dense area of Northern England, an "Alcove" as Robb calls it, that has been not lost per se, but well overlooked, a misty half-mythic landscape. This book is for anyone who loves obtuse or old maps and stories of reivers and highwaymen. Robb traverses the land and History by bicycle or on foot. Almost a Time/ travel log. This is a great follow up to his book, Discovery of Middle Earth.
— Maeve Noonan
"[An] entertaining work of geographical sleuthing.… Surprises abound." —The New Yorker
An oft-overlooked region lies at the heart of British national history: the Debatable Land. The oldest detectable territorial division in Great Britain, the Debatable Land once served as a buffer between England and Scotland. It was once the bloodiest region in the country, fought over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and James V. After most of its population was slaughtered or deported, it became the last part of Great Britain to be brought under the control of the state. Today, its boundaries have vanished from the map and are matters of myth and generational memories. In The Debatable Land, historian Graham Robb recovers the history of this ancient borderland in an exquisite tale that spans Roman, Medieval, and present-day Britain. Rich in detail and epic in scope, The Debatable Land provides a crucial, missing piece in the puzzle of British history.
About the Author
Best-selling author Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He is an acclaimed historian and biographer, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has won the Whitbread Biography Prize and the Heinemann Award for Victor Hugo, as well as the Ondaatje Prize and Duff Cooper Prize for The Discovery of France. His book Parisians was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. He lives on the Anglo-Scottish border.
Robb intercuts the past and present, the intimate and the impersonal, to wonderful effect. Few authors write so well about things lost and neglected—or have such sharp ears and eyes for the natural world. — Ian Jack
Revelatory. — Alan Taylor
It’s a book worth reading… it contains several glories, much fine writing and the odd (very odd) wonder. — Andrew Marr
A detective outing on native soil. Armed with energy, humour, a poet’s eye and a bicycle—all things his fans will be familiar with—Robb probes the received wisdoms of the past… His skill as a writer is to understand, without being fey, the fourth dimension: peeling back the modern landscape to find buried stories.
Graham Robb, apart from being a distinguished historian, biographer and literary critic, is one of our most accomplished travel writers.… [He] bicycles with the speed and ferocity of a Scottish reiver through these lost flatlands of history.
An amiably learned, leisurely tour of the land’s history, chinked with anecdotes.
Focusing on this one remarkable region, Robb’s two-wheeled perspective and highly observant eye allow him to ruminate through the Celtic, medieval, and present eras with ease; readers are lucky to join him on his enthralling journey.
An imagination-stimulating work in which the past seems to ‘dissolve and reshape itself.’