All About History
A leisurely stroll through Vikings, Civil War and Industrial Revolution
With his background in archaeology, Richard Morris is at his strongest when he’s talking about places rather than people. He conjures an epic tale from the geology of shifting continents and coastal erosion, the subterranean secrets of burial mounds and Roman sewers, and the scars left by 16th-century earthworks and long gone collieries. Furthermore, Morris makes a great case for the significance of Yorkshire as one of the many fulcrum around which a certain amount of British — and even world — history pivots.
This is also a very personal journey and for an archaeologist like Morris, places are deeply personal. His unique perspective and decades of experience in the field bring to life the cool stones of the iconic Whitby Abbey, the crumbling cliffs of Holderness and the windswept moors that inspired the Brontës.
But then the personal also means people, whether Yorkshire’s cultural touchstones like aviatrix Amy Johnson, poet Ted Hughes or novelist JB Priestley,
Author Richard Morris Publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson Price £25 Released Out now
Morris’ own extended family history, or lesser-known stories of quiet innovators and revolutionaries who have been largely forgotten outside of their blue plaques on Georgian brickwork. It’s there where Yorkshire: A Lyrical History of England’s Greatest
County seems to slip its tether, blether (translation: go on and on) and faff (translation: mess around), and ultimately leave feeling somewhat cast adrift with little more than curios for company.
There’s plenty to enjoy and plenty to send you scurrying off for further reading but little sense of purpose or momentum in itself. Some of the tangents read especially tenuous as Morris labours to connect locations he remembers from his childhood to the imprisonment of World War I’s conscientious objectors and tales of family members overseas to wider patterns of migration. It’s as lyrical as promised, but in promising a single history, Morris falls short.