100 books like Digging Up Britain

By Mike Pitts,

Here are 100 books that Digging Up Britain fans have personally recommended if you like Digging Up Britain. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Notes from Deep Time: A Journey Through Our Past and Future Worlds

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

This book expanded how I thought about time and about the landscape we take for granted.

It opened up the prehistoric world from a contemporary perspective, showing how a sense of deep geological time can help us understand our own place in the world better today.

Gordon explains why categories of things can be useful in deepening our understanding of a place: as she says, ‘a named landscape thickens.’

I also found this book so useful in working out how to cram 100,000 years of history into one volume for my book!

By Helen Gordon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Notes from Deep Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Astounding ... To call this a "history" does not do justice to Helen Gordon's ambition'
Simon Ings, Daily Telegraph

'Awe-inspiring ... She has imbued geological tales with a beauty and humanity'
Shaoni Bhattacharya-Woodward, Mail on Sunday

The story of the Earth is written into our landscape: it's there in the curves of hills, the colours of stone, surprising eruptions of vegetation. Wanting a fresh perspective on her own life, the writer Helen Gordon set out to read that epic narrative.

Her odyssey takes her from the secret fossils of London to the 3-billion-year-old rocks of the Scottish Highlands, and from…


Book cover of Radical Landscapes

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

What do we mean by landscape? What do we mean by Britain?

Radical Landscapes has been a springboard for me for the book I am currently researching for Yale on British Art.

It is the exhibition catalogue for a wide-ranging exhibition that was held at Tate Liverpool in 2022 and offers twelve essays on the latest thinking on queer theory, folk art, geopolitics, community spaces, and more.

Internal landscapes, botanical specimens, protests, maps – this book helped me expand my thinking about landscape beyond the picturesque and the sublime.

By Darren Pih (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Radical Landscapes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout the twentieth-century artists have responded to the landscape in emotional, physical and political ways: exploring themes of belonging to the land by interrogating the relationship between landscape history and identity, the enclosure or militarisation of land, to artists creating works that harness or dramatise natural earth processes. As the custodian of the national collection of British art, Tate's climate emergency declaration points to a wider concern and care for the environment that underpins the themes in Radical Landscapes.
Structured on three broad thematic sections; 'Trespass', 'Landscape and Identity', and 'Climate Breakdown', there will be around 100 works in total…


Book cover of England on Fire: A Visual Journey through Albion's Psychic Landscape

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

I don’t know why there aren’t more books like this – England on Fire comprises twelve visual essays that span 2,000 years of English art, from a Celtic sculpture of a head from c.100–300AD (that looks like a Modigliani) to new work by Cathy de Monchaux, Claire Partington and George Shaw.

Themes are broad, such as ‘Myth, Magic and Ritual’ and 'Rebellious Nature’ and chapters include folk rituals, landscape vistas, photographic tableaux, stained glass, and prints.

It picks a romantic path through time, with multiple works by William Blake, Samuel Palmer, and Frederick H. Evans, and it is a great way to view different interpretations of the English landscape.

By Stephen Ellcock, Mat Osman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked England on Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a book about English art like no other.

Forget the tired rogues' gallery of lords and ladies, forget the tall ships and haywains. These images cut to the heart of England's psychic landscapes to portray an Albion unhinged, where magic and rebellion and destruction are the horses to which the country is hitched. On these fabled shores we are all castaways, whether our family has lived here for four thousand years or for four.

Here you will find depictions of ancient trackways, chalk carvings and standing stones, of animal-masked community rituals, of streets set ablaze in protest, of…


Book cover of Imagining England's Past: Inspiration, Enchantment, Obsession

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

I read an early proof of this book (it is published on 13 April 2023) and was hooked from the first page.

Owens opens with footfall on medieval castle stairs and the tread of time – only the stairs she walks on are seventeenth-century copies and are part of the ongoing mythologising of England’s past.

She covers King Arthur and the Crusades, Beowulf and Tennyson, Shell tourist guides, and the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. Her excellent earlier book Spirit of Place (Thames & Hudson) is focused more squarely on the British landscape but this new book connects to the myth of England, how it has been and still is constructed in all our minds.

Eye-opening and beautifully written.

By Susan Owens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imagining England's Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagining England's Past takes a long look at the country's invented histories, from the glamorous to the disturbing, from the eighth century to the present day.

England has long built its sense of self on visions of its past. What does it mean for medieval writers to summon King Arthur from the post-Roman fog; for William Morris to resurrect the skills of the medieval workshop and Julia Margaret Cameron to portray the Arthurian court with her Victorian camera; or for Yinka Shonibare in the final years of the twentieth century to visualize a Black Victorian dandy?

By exploring the imaginations…


Book cover of Recreating the Past

T.M. Rowe Author Of A Viking Moon

From my list on transporting you back through time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have three lifelong passions, the first was reading, then writing, and then archaeology/history. To this end I studied and trained as an archaeologist before I sat down and decided to write stories set in the past as a way of bringing it to life. Of course, there had to be an adventure, a bit of a mystery, and a dash of magic to bring it all together. The books on my list are just a few of those that I have enjoyed reading during my hunt to get to know the past in intimate detail – on my own time travelling journey.

T.M.'s book list on transporting you back through time

T.M. Rowe Why did T.M. love this book?

I have always admired people who can bring the past to life in a visual way and in this book, Victor Ambrose draws and paints the lives of people and places from the past.

The text is provided by Mick Aston, a well-known archaeologist of Time Team fame. Many of the places featured in this book were sites investigated by the Time Team. The book is full to the brim with excellent illustrations of places and perhaps importantly they are then peopled with interesting characters (for fans of Time Team, you may recognize a few faces).

This book makes it easy to travel back in time, to visualize what life may have been like for people way back when which is why I recommend it to any potential time travelers.

PS Look out for the cheeky dog…

By Victor Ambrus, Mick Aston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Recreating the Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since 1994, when the first "Time Team" program was broadcast, archaeology has been brought to life for millions of people by Victor Ambrus and Mick Aston. Victor has produced hundreds of sketches and drawings of archaeological sites and the lives of those who would have inhabited them. For the first time, his drawings of individual excavations have been brought together to provide a dramatic chronological survey of British history—from Stone Age to modern via the Romans, the Vikings, and more. Add to this Mick Aston's lively explanations and photographs, and you have an archaeological collaboration which is guaranteed to delight.


Book cover of The Anglo-Saxons

Andrew Varga Author Of The Last Saxon King: A Jump in Time Novel

From my list on detailed, fun, and easy to read Anglo-Saxon history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a lifelong student of history. Even as a child I would devour history books or watch documentaries on TV telling tales of past wars of heroic battles. This passion eventually turned into a degree in History from the University of Toronto. I have also visited countless museums, castles, ruins, and historic sites throughout Europe and North America. My particular interest in Anglo-Saxon history came during my university years when I took some Old English language courses. Poems like the Battle of Maldon and Beowulf were my gateway to the rich tapestry of lives and events that made up the Anglo-Saxon era.

Andrew's book list on detailed, fun, and easy to read Anglo-Saxon history

Andrew Varga Why did Andrew love this book?

By using a balance of primary sources and archaeological discoveries, this book provides a detailed overview of Anglo-Saxon history, presented in a very readable way.

But what truly makes this book stand out is the colour and black-and-white images that decorate almost every page. These images provide an intimate view of Anglo-Saxon life, art, and religion that mere words can never achieve. 

By James Campbell, Eric John (editor), Patrick Wormald (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Anglo-Saxons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This survey, an introduction to the history of Anglo-Saxon England looks at political history, and religious, cultural, social, legal and economic themes are woven in. Throughout the book the authors make use of original sources such as chronicles, charters, manuscripts and coins, works of art, archaelogical remains and surviving buildings.The nature of power and kingship, role of wealth, rewards, conquest and blood-feud in the perennial struggle for power, structure of society, the development of Christianity and the relations between church and secular authority are discussed at length, while particular topics are explored in 19 "picture essays".


Book cover of Lords of the Desert: The Battle Between the United States and Great Britain for Supremacy in the Modern Middle East

Louise Burfitt-Dons Author Of Our Man In Kuwait

From my list on spies in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a thriller writer who was born and grew up in Kuwait during a period when the country was threatened with invasion by Iraq. My father was the Preventative Health Officer for the Kuwait Oil Company. At the end of 1960 Ian Fleming visited the country and they became close friends. At the time Britain depended on inside information to prepare for military Operation Vantage. The experiences I had of that time and of that relationship, even as a child, were crying out to be written about. Despite the Middle East being a hotspot for espionage during that period of the Cold War, there’s been relatively little written about it.

Louise's book list on spies in the Middle East

Louise Burfitt-Dons Why did Louise love this book?

This book sums up so much of what went on in the Middle East from the Second World War onwards. As such, James Barr lifts the curtain on British plotting and intrigue in a most readable and thrilling way. It details how America got involved in the middle decades of the twentieth century and much of the rivalry that existed during this period between the secret services. Essential reading to understand some of the present-day political ramifications of the region.

By James Barr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lords of the Desert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A path-breaking history of how the United States superseded Great Britain as the preeminent power in the Middle East, with urgent lessons for the present day

We usually assume that Arab nationalism brought about the end of the British Empire in the Middle East -- that Gamal Abdel Nasser and other Arab leaders led popular uprisings against colonial rule that forced the overstretched British from the region.

In Lords of the Desert, historian James Barr draws on newly declassified archives to argue instead that the US was the driving force behind the British exit. Though the two nations were allies,…


Book cover of Roloff Beny Interprets in Photographs Pleasure of Ruins

John Wilson Author Of Places not Paisley: Photographic Peregrinations: Book 3, The Ruined World

From my list on travel photography books that make the past come alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author of 50+ books of historical fiction and non-fiction for kids, teens, and adults I am handicapped by being unable to travel in time or go to the places I set my stories. I have long used photography as an attempt to capture a sense of places and the people who inhabit them, but I gradually realized that my images were not simply an adjunct to the stories I was telling but that the best of them had their own tales to tell. Through photographs, jumbled piles of stone became a gateway to a lost, magical past and a trigger for my imagination.

John's book list on travel photography books that make the past come alive

John Wilson Why did John love this book?

Many, many years ago, Rose Macauley’s classic book, The Pleasure of Ruins, went a long way to inspiring my sense of wonder at the remnants of past worlds.

In this book, Roloff Beny interprets Macauley’s words in the same way that I attempt to encapsulate and share some of the feelings of awe I get when I visit these magical places.

Book cover of Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society

Ilan Pappé Author Of Ten Myths About Israel

From my list on understanding modern Palestine.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ilan Pappé is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of PalestineThe Modern Middle EastA History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Ilan's book list on understanding modern Palestine

Ilan Pappé Why did Ilan love this book?

The Israeli narrative is particularly strong among Christain and Jewish communities due to a tale full of fabrications that stretches back to ancient times. This methodical and erudite research exposes the role of archeology in providing "scientific" scaffolding for that tale. 


By Nadia Abu El-Haj,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Facts on the Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Archaeology in Israel is truly a national obsession, a practice through which national identity-and national rights-have long been asserted. But how and why did archaeology emerge as such a pervasive force there? How can the practices of archaeology help answer those questions? In this stirring book, Nadia Abu El-Haj addresses these questions and specifies for the first time the relationship between national ideology, colonial settlement, and the production of historical knowledge. She analyzes particular instances of history, artifacts, and landscapes in the making to show how archaeology helped not only to legitimize cultural and political visions but, far more powerfully,…


Book cover of Mimbres Lives and Landscapes

Stephen H. Lekson Author Of A History of the Ancient Southwest

From my list on southwestern archaeology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado, Boulder; recently retired.  Before landing at the University of Colorado, I held research, curatorial, or administrative positions with the University of Tennessee, Eastern New Mexico University, National Park Service Chaco Project, Arizona State Museum, Museum of New Mexico, and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.  Over four decades, I directed more than 20 archaeological projects throughout the Southwest. I wrote a dozen books, chapters in many edited volumes, and scores of articles in journals and magazines. While many of these were technical treatises, I also tried to write scholarly books accessible to normal intelligent readers.  

Stephen's book list on southwestern archaeology

Stephen H. Lekson Why did Stephen love this book?

My archaeological career began in 1971 in the Mimbres region of Southwestern New Mexico. I continued to work in the area, on and off, until 2013. Along the way, I wrote four books and many chapters/articles about Mimbres, and I formed some strong opinions on ancient Mimbres history.

Centered in the Mimbres River valley, the Mimbres built about twenty sizable stone villages at the same time as Chaco Canyon, from 1000 to 1125. Their towns were notably large for the time, fueled by sophisticated canal irrigation (probably adopted from the Hohokam, see above). But Mimbres is most famous for its remarkable black-on-white pottery: artfully-painted bowl interiors show bugs, fish, antelopes, birds, and people – people doing things, tableaus of daily life, esoteric rituals, mythical events. These images appeal strongly to us, today. In ancient times, however, Mimbres bowls and Mimbres art seems to have been limited to the Mimbres region…

By Margaret C. Nelson (editor), Michelle Hegmon (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mimbres Lives and Landscapes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People have called the mountains, rolling hills, wide valleys, and broad desert plains of southwestern New Mexico home for at least ten thousand years. When they began to farm a little over two thousand years ago, they settled near the rich soils in the river floodplains. Then, around 900, the people of this region burned all of their kivas and started gathering in large villages with small ritual spaces and open plazas. Between 900 and about 1100, they also made the intricately painted geometric and figurative bowls today called Mimbres, their best-known legacy. Then, in the 1130s, they stopped making…


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