In the Land of Giants

by Max Adams

Hardcover, 2015



Call number




Head of Zeus (2015), 416 pages


"The five centuries between the end of Roman Britain and the death of Alfred the Great have left few voices save a handful of chroniclers, but Britain's 'Dark Ages' can still be explored through material remnants but above all, landscapes. In the Land of Giants explores Britain's lost medieval past by walking its paths and exploring its lasting imprint on valley, hill and field. From York to Whitby, from London to Sutton Hoo, from Edinburgh to Anglesey and from Hadrian's Wall to Loch Tay, each of his ten walk narratives form parts of a wider portrait of a Britain of fort and fyrd, crypt and crannog, church and causeway, holy well and memorial stone."--Back cover.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Medievalgirl
I knew that this was part travelogue part history book when I requested it, and was exited as the theme and subject seemed to relate to that of The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria.

It is certainly a fascinating and lively account, in which the two genres mixed
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together mostly very well. Almost like Bill Bryson ‘going history’. It certainly gives the reader and appreciation for the heritage and priceless relics from the past that survive to this day- many of right under our proverbial noses- and yet largely ignored.

It certainly made this historian want to visit more of the sites in question and helped me to understand and appreciate some of the social and economic circumstances of the pre-conquest era. (How people might have responded to strangers, social and diplomatic etiquette and acceptable conduct etc- which might help explain certain events).
The purpose of bringing the past to life, and exploring the legacy of the period dubbed the ‘Dark Ages’ (often with unfortunately and unjustly derogatory overtones) was met well with this book. For the general reader, the tone and style was suitably engaging and uncomplicated. Yes, there were some details on archaeological digs- but little of the minute discussion of minor details that might put people off a more academic tome.

My complaints were few. Firstly, the book did seem to be largely focused on the North Country and Scotland. I don’t know if that was because the Kingdoms and tribal divisions of that region were more politically significant at certain times- but I would really have liked to see more on the South. A bit on London and Essex, some Dorset and West Country and Sutton Hoo, and that was about it. Whereas the former Kingdom of Northumbria seemed to get chapter after chapter. Seriously, do places like the ‘Home counties’ or places like Sussex, and Midlands not have any Dark Age history or remains to speak of? I’m sure they do! What about the heartlands of what was once the Kingdom of Mercia. Tamworth etc?

Also, the asides into modern politics (or fairly modern politics) and current affairs might not have been entirely necessary. Nor indeed the designations applied to some persons and groups both historical and modern. Judging the past by the standards of the present is not generally considered good practice, and I suppose some passages just came across as obsessive and judgemental in some parts. Was this a, perhaps slightly self-conscious attempt to be ‘relevant’- or part of the over-arching narrative to make a point about the world not having changed greatly and there being many parallels between ‘then and now’? I suppose the latter, but I don’t think it always worked well.

I received an e-book edition of this title free from Netgalley for the purposes of reviewing. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.
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LibraryThing member ghr4
Max Adams's In the Land of the Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages presents an interesting and illuminating look at some of the historical touchstones of Britain's lost medieval past through a series of extended walks across the British countryside. The author'evocative prose shines a warm
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light on the Dark Ages, and his vivid desceiptions of the landscapes puts the reader right alongside him for his rambles. A one point, about midway through the book, Adams notes that on his journeys he had yet to meet a single other walker, musing that "ambulists have become an unusual sight, almost as rare as hitchhikers." Thankfully Adams continues to travel the public footpaths and trails to to document and describe the landscape and its underlying history. This is the first of the author's books to be published in the USA as well as the UK, which should give him a well-deserved wider audience. Adams's own color and black and white photos nicely supplement the text.
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LibraryThing member ritaer
This book has a lot of interesting information but it is poorly organized. The maps on the endpapers are of little use and only a few of the trips have more detailed maps. Information about various events and eras is scattered throughout the book as the author is reminded of it by one historical
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site or another. There are useful notes and a timeline and some interesting photographs.
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LibraryThing member viking2917
Good fun for history buffs. Tough sledding for anyone else. An historian/archaeologist goes walkabout in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales....


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

416 p.; 6.54 inches


1784080349 / 9781784080341

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