Interpreting the English Village: Landscape and Community at Shapwick, Somerset [Paperback]

Mick Aston(Author); Dr. Christopher Gerrard(Author)

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ISBN: 9781905119455 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2013 | Language: English 416p, 233 illus
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Interpreting the English Village


An original and approachable account of how archaeology can tell the story of the English village. Shapwick lies in the middle of Somerset, next to the important monastic center of Glastonbury: the abbey owned the manor for 800 years from the 8th to the 16th century and its abbots and officials had a great influence on the lives of the peasants who lived there. It is possible that abbot Dunstan, one of the great reformers of tenth century monasticism directed the planning of the village.
The Shapwick Project examined the development and history of an English parish and village over a ten thousand-year period. This was a truly multidisciplinary project. Not only were a battery of archaeological and historical techniques explored - such as field walking, test-pitting, archaeological excavation, aerial reconnaissance, documentary research and cartographic analysis - but numerous other techniques such as building analysis, dendrochronological dating and soil analysis were undertaken on a large scale.
The result is a fascinating study about how the community lived and prospered in Shapwick. In addition we learn how a group of enthusiastic and dedicated scholars unraveled this story. As such there is much here to inspire and enthuse others who might want to embark on a landscape study of a parish or village area. Seven of the ten chapters begin with a fictional vignette to bring the story of the village to life.
Text-boxes elucidate reoccurring themes and techniques. Extensively illustrated in color including 100 full page images.
This title was the winner of the 2014 British Archaeological Association's Best Archaeological Book Award.

Table of Contents

1. Starting Points
2. Ways of Seeing: Methods for the Analysis of of a Landscape
3. Once Upon a Time: From the Hunter-Gatherers of of the Mesolithic to the Agricultural Communities of the Iron Age
4. In the Shadow of an Empire: Life and Landscape during Roman Times, AD 43-c. AD 350
5. Postholes and People: From the End of the Roman Empire to the Early Middle Ages, c. AD 350-c. AD 800
6. A Village Moment? Shapwick before the Norman Conquest, c. AD 800-1000
7. Manor and Abbey:
Schapewik in the Later Medieval Period, 1100-1539
8. After the Dissolution: Post-Medieval Shapwick, 1539-1750
9. Make Way for Tomorrow: Shapwick Yesterday and Today
10. Wider Contexts

Reviews & Quotes

"Although reviewing is always a pleasurable occupation, it is rarely that a book of this quality is received, and even more rare that a reviewer can be sure that a classic, which will be consulted for decades to come, has come her way. This is one of those books, and it is a great regret that Mick Aston will not see its success."
Susan Oosthuizen
Landscape History (Vol. 34, No. 2, 2013)

"All in all, the book is an excellent compilation of the history of Shapwick by authors who believe firmly in the continuity of the landscape."
Christopher Taylor
Medieval Settlement Research Group (No. 28 (2013))

"A very clear, superbly illustrated and highly readable long-term history of one community over the last 12,000 years or so."
David Austin
Landscapes (June 2014 (Vol.15, No.1))

"One of the book's challenges to the reader is the fact that it is jam- packed full of ten years of research. The authors have been able to put together an interpretation of Shapwick's landscape, and the people who shaped it, that can inspire new ways of academic research as well as new ways of incorporating a broader base of public interest into programs and research projects that show value to the people they affect. This of course was always a notable strength of Mick Aston, and one of the reasons he will be greatly missed."
Melanie C. Maddox
The Medieval Review (14.04.18)

"...a text which is academically robust and fully referenced, but accessibly written and excellently illustrated in colour with 250 figures, a mixtures of photos, plans and reconstruction drawings by Time Team's resident artist Victor Ambrus."
Paul Stamper
British Archaeology (May June 2014)

"Interpreting the English an interesting, informative and entertaining description of the results of a 10 year study into the wilds of Somerset. Its plentiful full color images and sidebar stories assist in making the story come alive, and, by the way, passing along the wider history of the British Isles... This is a great example of the public archaeology output from landscape archaeology, and I recommend it wholeheartedly."
K. Kris Hirst Archaeology Guide (2013)

" inspiring example of a local study carried out by the people, about the people and written for the people... yet it might well be asked why it should merit a place on the bookshelves of enthusiasts of archaeology in Cornwall, or other places [outside of] Shapwick [and Somerset]. Quite simply, besides being a good read, it provides a possible model for others to follow in their own communities. Not only does it show how various disciplines have been applied but it is clear to follow, without the jargon that can be so daunting, and abundantly supplied with maps, so strangers can locate the places named with ease... Every parish deserves this treatment."
Roger Smith
Cornwall Archaeological Society Newsletter (April 2013)

"Fascinating, compelling and never patronising, this magnificent book is popular archaeology at its best. I cannot recommend it too highly. 10/10"
Steve Marshall
Fortean Times (301)

"Mick Aston was one of the presenters of the British "Time Team" archaeology programme, who died in 2013; this book is a great tribute to his knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm about all things archaeological."
Sian Williams (January 2014)

"The book about Shapwick demands a meticulous effort, but is in the end immensely inspiring and stimulating. Well worth a read."
Karen Schousboe (7 September 2014)

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