Geography Is Destiny: Britain’s Place in the World: A 10,000-Year History

Ian Morris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (544) ISBN 978-0-374-15727-2

England’s fateful geographical adjacency to Europe drives a millennia-long love-hate relationship in this sparkling history. Stanford historian Morris (Why the West Rules—For Now) surveys the many migrations of people across the Channel and into Britain, from prehistoric (and possibly incestuous) megalith builders, to Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman invaders, to present-day Polish plumbers. These influxes have shaped the identity of Britons, bringing new religions, languages, political allegiances, and ethnic restaurants, he notes, as has the countervailing struggle to block incursions by Spanish armadas, French monarchs, and fascist dictators. Morris deftly teases out long arcs—ancient Britons were as ambivalent about the Roman Empire, he argues, as modern ones are about the European Union—and probes archaeological and genealogical evidence, data on economic development, and the literature of manners and morals to illuminate slow, profound changes in the lives of ordinary people. He relates the pageant in breezy, colorful prose, dubbing King Arthur “perhaps the greatest Briton who never lived” and describing the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as a “series of shady back-room deals.” Written with verve and wit, this compulsively readable overview of British history is full of fascinating lore and incisive analysis. Photos. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (June)
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