Crushed by the Romans in the first century A.D., the ancient Druids of Britain left almost no reliable evidence behind. Because of this, historian Ronald Hutton shows, succeeding British generations have been free to reimagine, reinterpret, and reinvent the Druids. Hutton’s captivating book is the first to encompass two thousand years of Druid history and to explore the evolution of English, Scottish, and Welsh attitudes toward the forever ambiguous figures of the ancient Celtic world.
Druids have been remembered at different times as patriots, scientists, philosophers, or priests; sometimes portrayed as corrupt, bloodthirsty, or ignorant, they were also seen as fomenters of rebellion. Hutton charts how the Druids have been written in and out of history, archaeology, and the public consciousness for some 500 years, with particular focus on the romantic period, when Druids completely dominated notions of British prehistory. Sparkling with legends and images, filled with new perspectives on ancient and modern times, this book is a fascinating cultural study of Druids as catalysts in British history.
Ronald Hutton is professor of history at Bristol University and a leading authority on the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. He is the author of eighteen books.
Shortlisted for the 2009 Katherine Briggs Folklore Award
"A magisterial and eminently readable account of the druids and how they have been continually reinvented over the last three hundred years by visionaries, political radicals, angry academics and downright fraudsters. Recommended reading for anyone who has driven down the A303 late at night, slowed down as they approached Stonehenge and wondered for a moment if the original druids really did process round those gigantic stones wreathed in mistletoe and clutching blood-stained knives!" - Tony Robinson
"Lucid, open-minded, encyclopaedic and yet still fascinating - almost perfect history if such a thing were possible." - Terry Jones
"Everything that is known about the druids plus everything that is known about knowing about them! Ronald Hutton uses the quest for the druids as a mirror of how Europeans have seen themselves through the last thousand years. It's an enormous undertaking performed with even-handedness and a sense of joy in history." - Terry Jones
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