Not so very long ago, our roads, our buildings, our gravestones and our monuments were built from local rock, our cities were powered by coal from Welsh mines, and our lamps were lit with paraffin from Scottish shale. At the height of the empire, British stone travelled across the world; to India and China, Sri Lanka and Argentina, Singapore and South Africa. Across the British Isles were mines, quarries, slag heaps and brick pits, where the earth was dug up and made visible.
Today we live among the remnants of these times – our older cities are built from Bath limestone, or Aberdeen granite – but for the most part our mines are gone, our buildings are no longer local, and the flow of stone now travels from east to west. Spurred on by the erasure of history and industry, in Underlands Ted Nield journeys across this buried landscape, from the small Welsh village where his mining ancestors were born and are buried, to Swansea, Aberdeen, East Lothian, Surrey and Dorset.
Delving into the history and geology of this forgotten Britain, and into his ancestors' connection with the rocks of Britain, Nield unearths the raw veins of coal, stone, oil, rock and clay that make up the country beneath our feet, illuminating the ties between earth and place, and what the loss of kinship between past and present means for Britain, and the rest of the world today.
Ted Nield holds a doctorate in geology and works for the Geological Society of London as Editor of the monthly magazine Geoscientist. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society and a member of the Meteoritical Society. He is the author of Supercontinent and Incoming. He lives in London.
"Expansive and enthusiastic, brimming with insights and extraordinary details, Underlands is a dispatch from the Deep Time of geology. In guiding you through the unseen world below us it delivers what the best books do: a transformation in perspective"
– Gavin Francis
"I have been entirely won over by Ted Nield's manipulation of the subject and the genre. It is a most appealing thing that he has fashioned here full of great charm and humour. Geology is a noble instrument of inquiry and conviction. It can be oracular still, fiercely warning us against the degradation of our planet, and in the hands of Ted Nield it edges its way towards art"
– Jan Morris, Literary Review
"Nield's book is a poetic remembrance of forgotten time and lost perspectives"
– The Times
"Readers will be both informed and enchanted by Underlands, a personal memoir with an important scientific message"
– Engineering and Technology
"Nield eloquently explores the foundations on which our cities have been built and the geological wonders that lie beneath us"
– Mayfair Magazine
"Nield deftly incorporates a wide range of historical and literary references into his fluent prose, and relies on anecdotes – some very moving and others very amusing – to tell his stories. It all makes for a great read"
"'The ability to see the past and the future is both a blessing and a curse. I found that particularly strong testimony coming from someone who has spent a career in the oil industry"
– Times Literary Supplement