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'The Fens' by Francis Pryor - First Edition Signed Copy

'The Fens' by Francis Pryor - First Edition Signed Copy

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'The Fens' by Francis Pryor

As featured on BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week  (July 8th - 12th 2019).

Over the centuries the Fens have acquired a bad reputation. They have been seen as the disease-ridden haunts of outlaws and villains; the only permanent inhabitants being a few emaciated hermit-monks on tiny islands amidst the quaking wetlands. This book will offer a very different view.

Half a century of intensive archaeological research has conclusively demonstrated that far from being a neglected backwater, the Fens were one of the most prosperous regions in Britain. This prosperity began when hunting communities inland from the Wash were able to exploit fish, game and wildfowl in increasingly wetter conditions. The arrival of farming in the Neolithic period (4000 BC) saw the population grow. By 2500 BC field systems were laid out. This process of landscape development continued through the subsequent Bronze and Iron Ages. By the Roman period there were towns and numerous smaller settlements.

The area was never abandoned in post-Roman times and there is no evidence for any Anglo-Saxon invasions. The medieval economy that has bequeathed us three of the finest cathedrals in Europe, at Ely, Lincoln and Peterborough, grew directly from what had gone before. In post-medieval times, helped by the rise of Cambridge University, Fenland towns, such as Spalding and Wisbech became important centres for Quakers, liberal ideas, and the anti-slavery movement.

Finally Francis addresses the difficult question of the Fens’ future – or lack of one.

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