History & Culture
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The Celts (VSI Series) by Barry Cunliffe
Writing a balanced account of the Celts, their history and their culture, is a difficult task. Historical sources are few and were often written by people with unhelpful agendas. Attempting to paint an accurate picture from these accounts requires knowledge of a large amount of other information. Archeological finds are obviously important, as well as knowledge of things like oral traditions and music. Barry Cunliffe, is Professor of European Archeology at the University of Oxfrord, and according to his peers he’s overcome these difficulties.
The book starts with a little overview and then delves into some prehistory. The Celts often seem to have been peoples on the move and their progress is described as they came into contact with the Romans and Greeks of history. The Celtic link with Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians is also interestingly explained.
The author then moves on to aspects such as communication between groups of Celts, story telling, shared values, and striving for identity. Then finally, having fleshed out the Celtic landscape, he broaches the question, ‘So, who were the Celts?’ Of course, the previous chapters are all part of the answer.
The very nature of the Very Short Introduction books means that not everything can be covered in depth. Having said that, Barry Cunliffe has skilfully packed a huge amount into a small space. This book is well written, full of insight, and it easily lives up to its title.