The Celts: A History, Book Review

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The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby finnobreanan on Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:09 am

A couple of months ago I picked up a little book, The Celts: A History by Peter Berresford Ellis (I think it cost me a whopping $5.00 on sale), originally published in 2004, reprint of 2007. It is a nice easy read, filled with a lot of good information on Celtic Society and draws heavily on Irish sources. The author is obviously an authority, but the book doesn't have a single footnote for his sources. There's a good bibliography and it is indexed (always a plus for me). It would have been nice if the book would have been illustrated with the artifacts that the author discussess, but alas, they are nonexistant.The fifteen chapters cover: Origins; Literacy; Kings and Chieftans; Druids; Warriors; Women; Farmers; Physicians; Cosmology; Road Building; Artists and Craftsman; Architecture; Religion; Myth & Legend; and Early history. Not a bad little book for the price, but hardly the "End all, be all" of Celtic history.
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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby bannerman on Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:20 am

Im a just published author of Irish history and I have to say Peter Berresford Ellis is my favourite author. I would thouroughly recommend his book on "The scottish Insurrection of 1820" (written with Seamus Mac Mc An Gabhan), "The Boyne Water", "The Celtic Revolution" and "Celtic Dawn". Especially "The Celtic Revolution" However i do disagree with him on the origions of the people who we now call the celts (see my posts on the blood of the Irish documentry)! However Im on holidays right now and cant comment further for a week or so.

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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby Marcus Aurelius on Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:14 pm

Hey lads, from what I learnt in college there is a revision of the whole Celtic issue as is is believed that they did not call themselves Celts but acctually used their own tribal names, in my opinion the closest resembalence would by the Native American tribes. If anyone disagrees with this analagy I would welcome a debate on it. currently weare using ancient Greek and Roman sources on these people, there would be little or no evidece from the Iron Age tribes of Northern and Central Europe as they didn't have any written records so to speak. Ireland for example there is a theory that the Iron Age art work and weapons were brought over in trade from mainland Europe and Britain and there wasn't a Celtic invasion as previously suspected, as there isn't much archaeological evidence iof this, it is suspected that the bronze age people just simply started using iron as well as the bronze they had previously used.
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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby Nerva on Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:21 pm

Salvete Omnes!

I think Eoghan's comparison of the so called Celts to the Native American tribes is quite a good one; in fact it's one that Guy de la Bedoyere has quoted in the past, thought not entirely accurate. The Celts possessed a rich culture with varied art forms as did the Native Americans but the Europeans possessed varying degrees of metal fabrication technology that we do not see in American tribes. Our concept of the Celts as a people is largely a manufacture of the 19th century, but unfortunately one that gained academic acceptance in Britain and Ireland (you find quite a different view in France, Austria and Switzerland, the so called origins of Celtic culture - Hallstatt and LaTene). While we are seeing certain academics of some gravity expounding revisionist theory, I fear it will be decades before we see any revision to the national primary and secondary school curriculum.

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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby finnobreanan on Fri Nov 06, 2009 2:32 pm

No arguments here about the myths of Celtic Culture. I still recommend this book, since it does point out many of the myths and does examine Irish sagas and archeology as a methods of finding Early Irish Celtic traditions. The more I study early Irish history, the more I see parallels with Native American cultures, which I studied as an undergraduate. The similarities are indeed striking. I could go on and on about them.
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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby spearman on Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:24 pm

I attended a fascinating lecture in UCC a few weeks ago on the whole issue of the Celts. It was given by Barry Cunliffe, who I understand to be one of the foremost experts on the period.

He seemed to be suggesting that we should be looking for the Celts further back than the Iron Age, that this was a culture that was developing throughout Europe over a very long period. He was of the belief that the Celtic languages in this part of the world had their roots as a lingua franca created for trade by peoples up along the Atlantic coast. Eventually this evolved into the modern Celtic languages.

Maybe eventually the term Celt will fall out of use and we'll simply define these people as the Atlantic cultures or simply as early Europeans. It is becoming increasingly evident that they didn't live in an isolated bubble and that the rivers and seas would have provided strong links with other peoples.

It's unlikely we'll ever truly understand these peoples we define as Celts. Archaeology and the few historical sources we have can only tell us so much.

As for the history textbooks in school I hope it doesn't take too long for them to change. Then again with so many different theories on our history I'm sure it is difficult for teachers to decide on what the current mainstream view is.
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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby Freebeard on Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:45 pm

I was at that lecture too. It was very good. He took the idea of the lecture from John Koch, who gave a very similar one about a few years previous. He did say that he got the idea from him, so no stealing of ideas there.
He called the western european culture the Atlantic Culture, which is more fitting alright than the term 'celt', which as everyone should know is an 18th century tag
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Re: The Celts: A History, Book Review

Postby seandalaiocht on Thu Apr 15, 2010 6:59 pm

Cunliffe published his ideas in the most recent issue of the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Very thought provoking. He suggests the 'Celtic' language groups developed on the atlantic seaboard and spread east rather than the other way around.
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