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Britain's villages are world famous for their loveliness and idiosyncratic charm. Each village is different; travel across the country and you will unearth a joyous variety, from straggly Leintwardine in Herefordshire to BBC-film-perfect Askrigg in Yorkshire to higgledy-piggledy tourist hub Polperro in Cornwall to Miserden in Gloucestershire, with its staggeringly beautiful gardens, to Pittenweemin Fife, still eking a living from fishing, to the warring villages of Donhead St. Mary and Donhead St. Andrew in Wiltshire. History and architecture account for some differences-the memorials in churches, the details of door frames and chimney stacks-but there are also differences of spirit, and in how life is lived there today. What are the thriving local businesses? What are they selling in the shops-or are there shops at all? What are the traditions, old or invented? Who are the people who make these communities work? In this captivating volume, Clive Aslet draws on thirty years of travel in the countryside working for Britain's Country Life magazine to give us a living, personal, and opinionated history of five hundred of Britain's most beautiful and vibrant villages. Meticulously researched and drawing from conversations with local residents, publicans, and vicars, this book is both an indispensable gazetteer for anyone planning to tour the countryside and a portrait of rural Britain in a time of change.
The starting point of this book was a meeting in 1948 in Leicestershire when historians and archaeologists visited newly identified sites of deserted villages. The excitement of these discoveries changed approaches to the medieval countryside. Sixty years later a new group of scholars went back to the same sites and debated their significance in the light of many advances in knowledge. Thousands of villages and smaller settlements were deserted in England and Wales during all periods, though many of them were abandoned between 1340 and 1750. Why were they deserted? Why did some villages survive while others were abandoned? Who was responsible for their desertion? What can we learn about life in the countryside from a study of the deserted sites? Since the 1970s these questions have been set aside while interest has shifted to the origin and planning of villages, and the regional differences which led to a `village England' developing across the middle of the country, while everywhere else people lived in hamlets and individual farms. Now seems the right moment to return to the subject and with fresh eyes reopen the important questions which were not fully answered in the early days. In this book ten leading archaeologists, geographers and historians have come together to revisit the deserted villages and reveal much new evidence and new thinking about these fascinating sites.
This comprehensive and versatile reference source will be a most important tool for anyone wishing to seek out information on virtually any aspect of British affairs, life and culture. The resources of a detailed bibliography, directory and journals listing are combined in this single volume, forming a unique guide to a multitude of diverse topics - British politics, government, society, literature, thought, arts, economics, history and geography. Academic subjects as taught in British colleges and universities are covered, with extensive reading lists of books and journals and sources of information for each discipline, making this an invaluable manual.

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