Prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric Britain

Excerpt

At first it seemed absurd to settle down while civilization rocked to write of its prehistory. Or with the present painful and the future uncertain, was it perhaps only good sense to escape into the past? Then another justification came into my mind--that prehistory was coming to life. There had been a sudden probability that events long consigned to the remote past might be re-enacted and involve oneself. As this book will show, prehistorians had spent much learning and ingenuity on reconstructing thousand-year-old stories of continental invasions of Britain. In 1940 we awaited a practical demonstration in modern form.

It was amusing to see in how many ways the present promised to mirror the past: even in a manner reassuring--the feeling 'this has happened before' gave perspective to one's own fate. In the early summer of 1940 I was living in East Anglia, and there, according to military authority, we were threatened from the Low Countries, north Germany and Scandinavia. Archæological authority concurred: in early times the eastern counties were always open to invasion from just those quarters. What happened next? One by one I watched my acquaintance, openly or surreptitiously, according to their natures, join a westward migration. Some went to Somerset, others to Devon and Cornwall; many went to Wales. Irresistibly caught up in this mass movement of our social group, my small son and I found ourselves in Dorset, forming a unit in the great trek to the west that all have witnessed. Could anything be more reminiscent of another famous Germanic onslaught, when the warlike and pagan Anglo-Saxons swept down on eastern Britain and unhappy Celts fled before them to find security among the western hills? And that was not the first time such a movement had occurred. Those hills have so often offered sanctuary to refugees driven from the coveted fertility of the lowlands that they now form a museum of ancient human types.

As the summer of 1940 advanced, Germanic hordes massed down the French coast, and the whole of southern England became uneasy. This again followed archæological precept. Throughout prehistory, in the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, our southern shores had been . . .

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