Yorkshire, it has been said, is 'a continent unto itself', a region where mountain, plain, coast, downs, fen and heath lie close. By weaving history, family stories, travelogue and ecology, Richard Morris reveals how Yorkshire took shape as a landscape and in literature, legend and popular regard.
We descend into the county's netherworld of caves and mines, and face episodes at once brave and dark, such as the part played by Whitby and Hull in emptying Arctic waters of whales, or the re-routing of rivers and destruction of Yorkshire's fens. We are introduced to discoverers and inventions, meet the people who came and went, encounter real and fabled heroes, and discover why, from the Iron Age to the Cold War, Yorkshire has been such a key place in times of tension and struggle.
In a wide-ranging and lyrical narrative, Morris finds that for as far back as we can look Yorkshire has been a region of unique presence with links around the world.
Richard Morris is emeritus professor of archaeology at the University of Huddersfield. He began his career working on excavations under York Minster in 1971. Since then he has worked as a university teacher, as director of the Council for British Archaeology, as director of the Leeds Institute for Medieval Studies, and as a writer and composer. His book Churches in the Landscape (1989) is widely regarded as a pioneering classic. Time's Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and shortlisted for the Current Archaeology Book of the Year Award. He is completing a new biography of the aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis, and working on a social history of interwar England from the air.
"[A] restless, poetic, strange book, and the territory it describes deserves nothing less"
– Andrew Martin, Observer
"[A] quirky, personal history of the Ridings [...] Making an idiosyncratic selection of events from prehistory to the present day, and using some charming passages of personal memoir, Morris subtly draws out patterns and recurring themes that may explain the county's distinctive history [...] Morris writes insightfully not just about one county, but about how places become what they are"
– Richard Benson, Mail on Sunday
"Reading the book is like watching the author sift through layers of time: whatever will he turn up next? [...] There is a wealth of fascinating information – I'd not known, for example, that the fashion for naming houses 'Windyridge' (as both my father and grandfather called theirs) derived from the popularity of a 1912 novel of that title by Willie Riley"
– Blake Morrison, Guardian
"In this meticulously researched book, Richard Morris reveals Yorkshire and Yorkshireness through a series of extraordinary journeys and stories [...] Particularly interesting is the juxtaposition of nature, culture, religion and politics and the way in which places are defined and shaped by geography and terrain [...] Morris's description of the River Swale as glittering and energetic could be a metaphor for his own writing, which is itself relentlessly energetic [...] Fascinating"
– Adrian Dangar, Country Life
"Although it is one of the most diverse counties geographically, Yorkshire has always inspired a fierce loyalty among those born there, and it is this sense of place that is the subject of the fascinating Yorkshire"
"Engrossing [...] Aims to look beyond the Eee By Gum stereotypes to explore the intersections between Yorkshire's landscape, language and identity, and reflect too on how outsiders perceive the county"
– The Bookseller
"County histories have been around considerably longer than many of our present counties, but in that heavily populated landscape this is no ordinary book, and its author no ordinary writer [...] With footnotes to do an academic paper proud, Morris constantly comes across stories that he can't leave alone, that he burrows into, finding new connections and insights and behind which, you imagine, often lie sufficient materials for books of their own"
– Mike Pitts, British Archaeology
"One of the most unusual and thought-provoking guides to the county's distant and recent past"
– Craven Herald
"[L]earned and gripping"
– Alan Crosby, Who Do You Think You Are? magazine