History

The Fens : Discovering England’s Ancient Depths by Francis Pryor

Paperback £9.99 Head of Zeus

A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. Inland from the Wash, on England’s eastern cost, crisscrossed by substantial rivers and punctuated by soaring church spires, are the low-lying, marshy and mysterious Fens. Formed by marine and freshwater flooding, and historically wealthy owing to the fertility of their soils, the Fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire are one of the most distinctive, neglected and extraordinary regions of England. Francis Pryor has the most intimate of connections with this landscape.

For some forty years he has dug its soils as a working archaeologist – making ground-breaking discoveries about the nature of prehistoric settlement in the area – and raising sheep in the flower-growing country between Spalding and Wisbech. In The Fens, he counterpoints the history of the Fenland landscape and its transformation – from Bronze age field systems to Iron Age hillforts; from the rise of prosperous towns such as King’s Lynn, Ely and Cambridge to the ambitious drainage projects that created the Old and New Bedford Rivers – with the story of his own discovery of it as an archaeologist. Affectionate, richly informative and deftly executed, The Fens weaves together strands of archaeology, history and personal experience into a satisfying narrative portrait of a complex and threatened landscape.

‘Francis Pryor brings the magic of the Fens to life in a deeply personal and utterly enthralling way

TONY ROBINSON

‘Pryor feels the land rather than simply knowing it’

THE GUARDIAN

Crusaders : An Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands by Dan Jones

Paperback £9.99 Head of Zeus

Best-selling chronicler of the Middle Ages, Dan Jones turns his attention to the history of the Crusades – the sequence of religious wars fought between the late eleventh century and late medieval periods, in which armies from European Christian states attempted to wrest the Holy Land from Islamic rule, and which have left an enduring imprint on relations between the Muslim world and the West. From the preaching of the First Crusade by Pope Urban II in 1095 to the loss of the last crusader outpost in the Levant in 1302-03, and from the taking of Jerusalem from the Fatimids in 1099 to the fall of Acre to the Mamluks in 1291, Crusaders tells a tale soaked in Islamic, Christian and Jewish blood, peopled by extraordinary characters, and characterised by both low ambition and high principle. Dan Jones is a master of popular narrative history, with the priceless ability to write page-turning narrative history underpinned by authoritative scholarship. Never before has the era of the Crusades been depicted in such bright and striking colours, or their story told with such gusto.

The story of the Templars, the ultimate holy warriors, is an extraordinary saga of fanaticism, bravery, treachery and betrayal, and in Dan Jones they have a worthy chronicler.

PRAISE FOR THE TEMPLARS: ‘A fresh, muscular and compelling history of the ultimate military-religious crusading order, combining sensible scholarship with narrative swagger’ SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE.

‘Dan Jones has created a gripping page-turner out of the dramatic history of the Templars’ PHILIPPA GREGORY. ‘

‘This is another triumphant tale from a historian who writes as addictively as any page-turning novelist‘ OBSERVER.

THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR ON PALESTINE by Rashid Khalidi

‘Riveting and original … a work enriched by solid scholarship, vivid personal experience, and acute appreciation of the concerns and aspirations of the contending parties in this deeply unequal conflict ‘ Noam ChomskyThe twentieth century for Palestine and the Palestinians has been a century of denial: denial of statehood, denial of nationhood and denial of history. The Hundred Years War on Palestine is Rashid Khalidi’s powerful response.

Drawing on his family archives, he reclaims the fundamental right of any people: to narrate their history on their own terms. Beginning in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, Khalidi reveals nascent Palestinian nationalism and the broad recognition by the early Zionists of the colonial nature of their project. These ideas and their echoes defend Nakba – the Palestinian term for the establishment of the state of Israel – the cession of the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan and Egypt, the Six Day War and the occupation.

Moving through these critical moments, Khalidi interweaves the voices of journalists, poets and resistance leaders with his own accounts as a child of a UN official and a resident of Beirut during the 1982 seige. The result is a profoundly moving account of a hundred-year-long war of occupation, dispossession and colonialisation.

HB rrp £25