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Essex is a difficult county to pin down. Even its boundaries have constantly shifted, with saltmarsh reclaimed from the sea for agriculture and land lost to expanding London in the south.
Economically it is a place of contrasts. Affluent and charming, Saffron Walden in 2015 won a national vote for quality of life whilst 40 miles away, Jaywick has twice topped the deprivation league table.
In Essex alternative ideas have flourished, experimental communities have grown and bold new model towns have been built. From Colchester Isaac Bunting opened up trade with the East, importing lilies from Japan whilst Chelmsford’s reputation for technological innovation attracted the young pioneering inventor, Marconi.
Nationally Essex may be known for white van man and for the fake tans and stilettos of TV’s TOWIE. It might just be England’s most misunderstood county but behind the cliches this book uncovers a place of dynamism, optimism and extraordinary diversity.
Old Street Press, hardback, £14.99