This is history, obviously. I generally enjoy reading about the past, learning about life long before I was born. Unfortunately, this book, a scholarly work, was just a little too dry for my tastes.
For those seeking the statistics, fine details that are available, and the names of those involved in the various landgrabs that took place in England over the period from the early 15th century to as late as the 18th, this large book will answer many questions. It’s clear from the many appendices that the author has researched the subject in depth and there is plenty of evidence of this activity.
I think my expectations were of a different book than the one I read. I was hoping for more stories about the people who were displaced. Accounts of what happened to these displaced individuals, thrown out of their homes, often with no recompense or thought for their future given by their wealthy landlords. But, as with so much of the history we are taught, the only ‘people’ who received any real attention were those responsible for the landgrabs; mostly wealthy landowners and the ‘nobility’, though never was a less appropriate label attached to a bunch of people as that one.
The one aspect I had not previously understood was the variation in lost villages from county to county. It seems that some major landowners were less able or willing to subject their peasants and serfs to the sort of unconcerned cruelty displayed by many others.
So, for me, a disappointing read that made little difference to the knowledge I already hold. Even the account of one ‘lost’ village I know personally, Wharram Percy, brought no interesting information not present at the site itself.
Historians and archaeologists will no doubt find a good deal to interest them here, and it may even lead, perhaps has already led, to deeper investigations of the many sites listed.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]
2 thoughts on “The Lost Villages of England, by Maurice Beresford: #BookReview.”
I agree that it would be much more interesting to read about the people who were displaced, not about the landowners. I would enjoy a book that tackles that angle. Cheers.
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It’s a problem with most of the history taught in schools, Lynette; concentration on the rich and powerful and little information on how the ordinary people lived. Something I’d love to see change so our kids are taught the real history of the places they inhabit.
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