Yorkshire: A Lyrical History of England’s Greatest County
by Richard Morris Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 304 pages, £25
There’s no easy way to categorise this boundarycrossing book.
It is in part a family story, where the experiences of Richard Morris and his immediate forebears provide themes around which are woven narratives of history, archaeology and life experiences. These range far and wide, the link being roots in, or a base in, Yorkshire.
There’s a great deal of history, but this is lyrical and poetic rather than formal and chronological. True, there are facts aplenty but there are also long passages that are literary rather than analytical. Furthermore, there’s no pretence at being comprehensive – thus almost nothing on Sheffield, Leeds or Huddersfield, but a great deal on Hull, Bradford and York. Themes are sometimes dark – such as the treatment of conscientious objectors in the First World War – and sometimes light (a chapter on Robin Hood!).
It’s a personal and family memoir, a travelogue of Yorkshire and a review of historical themes, with many biographies of people great and small, and an artist’s eye for landscape and topography. Morris is an archaeologist, composer, writer, biographer and historical researcher, and all of these diverse talents come together magnificently in a learned and gripping title.