The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England

Graham Robb. Norton, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-28532-1
Robb’s move to the singular “Debatable Land” on the border of present-day England and Scotland inspired this combination bicycle travelogue, regional history, and declaration of admiration. Covering 33,000 acres on either side of the Scottish-English border, this uninhabited middle ground originally, in ancient times, served as communal (“bateable”) livestock pastures, Robb (The Discovery of Middle Earth) explains, preserving a historically delicate balance in a region where family loyalty rules and accents vary significantly over a few miles. Later, a core group of families, like the Armstrongs and Nixons, made up the “reivers,” who made their living stealing livestock and household goods, leaving burned houses in their wake and introducing the words “blackmail” and “bereaved” into English. Robb’s passion for cycling and amiable persona provide him with a ground-level view, allowing him to observe how the reality of life in the borderlands differs from the myths, such as the inaccurate story that blames a curved ditch obstacle on “Anglo-Scottish strife.” Focusing on this one remarkable region, Robb’s two-wheeled perspective and highly observant eye allow him to ruminate through the Celtic, medieval, and present eras with ease; readers are lucky to join him on his enthralling journey. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2018
Release date: 06/12/2018
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-393-35705-9
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