Shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize, the Thwaites Wainwright Prize and the 2014 Dolman Travel Book Award
This is a book about the encounter with Roman Britain: about what the idea of ‘Roman Britain’ has meant to those who came after Britain’s 400-year stint as province of Rome – from the medieval mythographer-historian Geoffrey of Monmouth to Edward Elgar and W.H. Auden. What does Roman Britain mean to us now? How were its physical remains rediscovered and made sense of? How has it been reimagined, in story and song and verse?
Charlotte Higgins has traced these tales by setting out to discover the remains of Roman Britain for herself, sometimes on foot, sometimes in a splendid, though not particularly reliable, VW camper van. Via accounts of some of Britain's most intriguing, and often unjustly overlooked ancient monuments, Under Another Sky invites us to see the British landscape, and British history, in an entirely fresh way: as indelibly marked by how the Romans first imagined, and wrote, these strange and exotic islands, perched on the edge of the known world, into existence.
Wonderfully written and full of unexpected facts. Higgins brings Roman Britain into the present.
Beautifully crafted… The beauty of this book is not just in the elegant prose and the precision with which she skewers her myths. It is in the sympathy that she shows for the myth-makers, the men and woman who so very much wanted their very own Roman Britain.
Mesmerising… Sophisticated and passionate. She personalizes the story in a diaristic, almost poetic tone…her prose reminds me at times of W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn…similarly haunted by a sense of a past slipping away.
Smart and up-to-date, sensitive but hard-headed, impeccably researched but gloriously poetic. The layering of themes, moods and topics is staggering. There's nothing like quite it.
Under Another Sky should be on every shelf in the UK. Part travelogue, part handbook and part revisionist history, it is a personal and vivid encounter with landscapes, artefacts and people… Beautifully considered and written.